Vitamins for trees?
June 1, 2014 8:48 AM   Subscribe

I've planted a variety of trees around my house - kwanzan cherries, tulip trees, flowering crabapples - and many seem to have shared problems. These are 1) extra thick trunks for their size, 2) a tendency toward something like witch's brooming, and 3) a tendency to grow off vertical. No basic nutrient problems on soil testing, but haven't done trace minerals. Should I break up with them, or is there someway to work this out?
posted by bullatony to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
On the one hand problems that affect multiple types of plants often point to some environmental or cultural problem. Is it possible there's some contaminant in your soil? Testing for that can be sort of pricey, and maybe not necessary if you don't have any reason to believe something's there. Also, other than toxic metals it's helpful to have some idea of what to look for.

On the other hand the cherry and crabapple are the same family, and there are various organisms that could cause witch's brooming. In my experience trace minerals are rarely a problem, but that's easy to test.

This is a perfect problem to take to your state extension office. They should also be able to tell you if certain nutrient deficiencies are a problem in your area. If your local extension isn't helpful you can try the Pacific Northwest Plant Disease Management Handbook, but, obviously, it might not apply to your area very well, and might not help at all if your problem isn't a disease.
posted by sevenless at 9:26 AM on June 1, 2014

1) extra thick trunks for their size, 2) a tendency toward something like witch's brooming, and 3) a tendency to grow off vertical.

All three of these sound like problems grafted trees experience: 1) because the grafted branches do not establish connections quite as good with the trunks as branches which grew from seed would have, plus the fact that significant amounts of the trunk have no direct connection to branches at all due to the exigencies of the grafting process; 2) because the rootstock is reasserting itself by sending up a bunch of branches from a point below the graft, partly as a result of 1), but possibly also in a kind of competition with the graft; and 3) because of almost unavoidable asymmetries at the point where the graft was established.

If so, then there might not be much you could do about it.
posted by jamjam at 10:35 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was going to say grafting issue too. Did you buy them all from the same place? They might not be that well grafted. I've had grafts come apart on me before. Or the rootstock might not be suitable for your area.
posted by fshgrl at 11:53 AM on June 1, 2014

Witches brooms, particularly (if that's what you're seeing) can be caused by multiple things; viruses, eriophyid mites, and commonly mycoplasma-like organisms. Apples and cherries commonly sprout like nuts along the trunks, especially if they've had some kind of damage, trauma, graft incompatibility, are planted too deep, etc.
Witches broom-like symptoms can be mimicked by chemical (often herbicide) damage. Has anyone used a weed-and-seed or other herbicide on your lawn? How long ago were the trees planted, who planted them, and how deeply?
Can you explain more, or post photos?
posted by Red Loop at 5:02 PM on June 1, 2014

OP here - I think that the herbicide notion is the most likely - trees are in areas that have been in production/storage areas in the past. No lawn products x 9 years, so that doesn't explain the ones which are in former non-production areas. Might catch some drift from current corn/soybean field across the road. I planted the trees, over the years, probably last four years ago. Deep enough so the crown of the rootball was just at the surface. No problems noted at graft sites.
posted by bullatony at 4:40 AM on June 2, 2014

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