Still alive?

Asked May 18, 2014, 8:25 PM EDT

Hi there- Attached, please find a picture of my ailing contorted filbert. The long branches are dead and easily break off and the leaf growth is at the "core" of the tree. The dead branches are covered with lichen. I'm wondering if it can be saved? Thank you! HC

Multnomah County Oregon

2 Responses

Yes, your contorted filbert is still alive. Just how long it will remain that way is another question. I suspect the reason for the dieback (dead branch ends) is due to one or more causes: cold damage from this past winter; drought-stress (ran short of water) during one or more previous seasons; and/or Eastern filbert blight. Here are some clues to help you come to a conclusion.

Possible cold damage: Even though filberts are hardy to Zone 4, those in containers are more likely to be damaged than if it were in the ground.

Drought-stress: Container-grown plants dry out much more quickly than their ground-planted counterparts, in part because root spread is limited. That’s especially true if the container is porous (clay or terracotta) and/or the plant is adjacent to a reflective wall. Then, too, extended hours of sunlight on the container heats the soil and can damage or kill roots. The container seems small for what was the overall size of your plant.

Eastern filbert blight: This very common disease of filberts is spread by wind and wind-driven rain. Branches may die suddenly from July to September. When examined closely, small (quarter inch or so), dark, slightly raised elongated football shapes are seen, Unfortunately, new infections don’t develop tis stage until a year or so later. The disease will gradually kill the canopy over an extended period of years. The only remedy is to remove and discard the diseased/dead branches.

At this time, I suggest you remove all the dead wood, then repot during the fall when the tree goes dormant. In general, woody container-grown plants should be repotted every 3 to 5 years, the frequency depending upon growth of the plant.

I neglected to comment about the lichen. Lichen indicates two things, neither of whaich are of concern. First, the tree is growing slowly. Second, that the tree lives in a region with good quality air.