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Center defoliated

Posted by mkirkwag Puget Sound (My Page) on
Sun, Jun 8, 08 at 12:30

I have a large red Japanese maple - don't know what kind - about 2 stories tall. My understanding is that it's 15-20 years old. Last year the leaves were sparse. the rhodies didn't bloom well either, so we thought soil, maybe water. We hadn't feed the plants the previous fall, but only use organic food, and I didn't really expect that the soil would become sterile over a couple of seasons (!), but was careful to feed and water as per our previous habit. This year it's worse - completely defoliated in the center, though growing fine on the outsides. One of the nearby rhodies is fine, the other virtually dead. The viburnun davidii under is thriving.

We took a some samples to the local master gardeners. They didn't have a clue - it doesn't have the striations you'd expect to see in verticillium wilt, nor is the damage one sided. I know I need to get samples off to a lab, but in the meantime - has anyone had this happen?

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RE: Center defoliated

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 8, 08 at 18:31

Both rhododendrons and Japanese maples need good drainage, if you are on a damp soil and the water table has risen or it has been damper near the surface recently root suffocation could produce death of all or part of the tops.

Otherwise honey fungus (Armillaria) seems possible, as there are often signs of this on old rhododendrons in plantings around here. It attacks the tree or shrub near the soil and kills the top, thereby generating more dead wood for it to decompose - a wood decomposer that doesn't always wait for the wood to be dead from other causes.

RE: Center defoliated

I don't think anything has shifted in the water. The rhodies have been there for 30 years. I went out to take a closer look at the trunk to see if I saw any fungi and discovered that this may well have been our doing.

We used to take the dog out with us when we gardened and put him one of those plastic coated cables wrapped around the tree. It wasn't tight, and he didn't seem to pull enough to stress it, so we didn't worry about it. We got tired of taking it in and out and wrapping it the right number of times to control the length, and just left it there, hidden in the bushes. Well, the tree grew. It's biting into the trunk sufficiently that I can't pull it loose. I'm so disgusted with myself - I'm going to go beat myself with dead maple switches now...:-(

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