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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sooty Canker Disease Not Always Lethal

Picture of Chinaberry from Reader
 Q. Help me decide if I can keep my 12-year-old Chinaberry tree. I fear it has sooty canker disease because it has some branches dying. But it does not have peeling bark. It is a joy in the spring with all the flowers and I would like to keep it at least one more spring if this disease does not spread to other trees
Picture of Chinaberry from Reader
Picture of Chinaberry from reader
A. Regardless of whether you keep it or not, the tree needs to be pruned at the least to remove the dead branches. Once the dead limbs are removed and examined it will be easier to find out if it is actually sooty canker disease. If this disease is confined to limbs and does not enter the trunk, it is possible to save the tree.
            Sooty canker disease attacks many different plants but seems to favor mulberry, poplar or cottonwood, apple trees and yours. It is called sooty canker because the dead wood, just under the peeling bark, is covered with a black powder that looks exactly like a heavy layer of soot from a fireplace chimney.
Actual sooty canker on apple
Actual sooty canker on apple
            This disease enters the plant through limbs damaged by the intense sun, pruning with hand shears or chainsaw and wounds. It may be taken from tree to tree by birds but the most common means of spreading this disease is with dirty pruning equipment.

            When pruning, make sure saw blades are sanitized BETWEEN cuts with diluted bleach or Pinesol. It is possible to save the tree by carefully pruning out dead branches but making sure it is not spread by equipment through cuts.
            Sooty canker usually attacks weaker trees so make sure the tree is receiving enough water and is cared for properly with a single fertilizer application each year in early spring.

            Yes, you could prune now with no problems or in the spring. This disease does not spread quickly. But if the disease is in the trunk it is a goner. If just in the limbs, it is possible to save.

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