I realized about a week ago that the leaves on my cherry tree had all turned...

Asked September 1, 2014, 12:49 PM EDT

I realized about a week ago that the leaves on my cherry tree had all turned brown. Today, I noticed this strange brown gunk at the base of the tree (some of it is white). Is my tree dead, or will it regain health with treatment? Also, how does one treat and prevent this?

Montgomery County Maryland trees and shrubs sap and gummosis cherry trees

1 Response

Cherry trees in general are not long lived trees. The presence of gum or sap on cherry trees can be a natural response to defend wounds on the tree caused by things like bark cracks, insect feeding, mower injury or drought. This is the tree's natural response to a source of stress.

When the root system of the tree is damaged by drought it can often result in canker diseases. If the problem is caused by bacteria or fungus, there is nothing that can be done on the main trunk. If there are cankers on branches, prune them out and dispose of infected wood. Prune on warm, dry days and do not leave stubs. Try to keep the plant healthy and water during dry periods. Keep mulch away from the trunk of the tree. Do not use pruning paint or any wax. Trees protect themselves from invasion by decaying organisms. This is a natural process called compartmentalization.

Borers can cause sap to ooze from holes in large branches and/or in the upper or lower trunk. Look for sawdust-like frass. If larvae are present, they can be speared with thin wire inserted into holes. If there is gummosis this will not be practical. Heavy infestations can cause branch dieback. One or two borers can kill a tree. The stress weakens the tree and makes it more susceptible to insect and disease problems. No chemical control is recommended.

A this point, Prune out any dead branches, rake fallen leaves to prevent any overwintering fungal spores, and water the tree during dry periods to maintain vigor. Make sure mulch is no thicker than two inches and keep away form the base of the trunk. You will have to wait and see if the tree puts out new growth next spring.