I have two cherry tress. Last season both did fine with wonderfuly fruit. As...

Asked January 12, 2015, 10:39 AM EST

I have two cherry tress. Last season both did fine with wonderfuly fruit. As the summer began to wane the leaves of one began to "suddenly" turn brown. By the end of summer all leaves were fully and completely crisp. What might have caused this while the other one has no indication of trouble(yet) - with my fingers crosse)? The tree that has diseased is two or three years younger than the other. We left the tree standing in hopes that it was some seasonal fluke and not a permanant disease. With it yet being mid winter, I don't yet know if it will flusih this next season. Thank you for any suggeston you might render and of course, for any direction you might give.

Columbia County Wisconsin

6 Responses

There are several disease explanations for the sudden death of cherry trees.
You do not mention what type of cherry or the rootstocks so I will give them all to you.
Bacterial canker can kill the whole tree rather suddenly. Bacteria get into the tree following a freeze and a cold wet spring. They can then cause collapse of larger limbs they seldom kill the whole tree suddenly.

More likely is one of 2 root diseases. Armillaria root rot can kill a tree suddenly in the middle of the growing season. It is caused by a fungus in the soil. It is deadly to cherries grown on Mahaleb rootstock and there is no treatment so other rootstocks such as Mazzard are used in areas where this disease is known to occur. http://cherries.msu.edu/uploads/files/PDFs/Diseases/ArmillariaRootRot.pdf
Finally Phytophthora root rot can kill a tree suddenly. The spores of this fungus swim in the soil so it is common in areas where the soil is wet and more likely in sandy soils. My experience with this disease is that it seldom kills the tree outright but makes it progressively weaker for several years. Here is another link.

Given the sudden onset to an otherwise health tree I suspect it was Armillaria root rot. Are there Hardwoods such as oaks in the area. the disease is also call oak root rot.

Thank you so much for your swift response. Both cherry trees are Montmorency. I do not know the root stocks. They were purchased from different vendors several years apart. The tree in question is on a slight hill side with far less sustainable soil (glacial till) than the surviving one which could resemble “sandy soil conditions” noted in the Armillaria root rot links. Also, as I reflect on it, this tree did not do as well in at least the year previous but I attributed it to being a younger tree plus the year before all fruit trees in this area did poorly due to the overwintering conditions. On the other hand, as I reflect on the progression, and just conferred with my husband, the leaves did indeed go chlorotic before they turned brown and crispy. And the picture of the so affected trees in the phytophthora link certainly resembles the way our tree looked by the end of the season. So I am not sure which rot it is but suspect the later.

The main question now is how do I protect my other tree? I am to assume this tree needs pulled from the ground? Should I treat the area in any way and is there something I can do to protect my other tree without knowing the root stock of it? Again, thanks. You are appreciated.

Probably both trees are on Mahaleb roots. It is the most common full sized cherry rootstock and has proven more productive and more tolerant of dry conditions. There really is not a lot to do to protect the other tree. Are they close together? Soil diseases move very slowly and are most often spread by man. Armillaria would have probably had some mushrooms come up. Last winter was pretty hard on a lot of fruit trees here in Michigan and we had a bunch die. The loss of roots or having the collar girdled by rot in the spring would not have been very noticeable during our wet spring but the collapse would have been dramatic with a hot dry summer. If the area where the tree is growing is not normally wet I think it will be fine

Again, thanks so much. You have been helpful. The two trees are about 30 feet apart, at best. Hmmm, mushrooms, a vague recall...hopefully my mind is blending other trees into my recall given we have a very shady area not far from the cherry trees. No oaks, by the way. I will, will hope and wait for this next season with positive thoughts and see what comes of my other cherry tree. When I remove the one can I replant in the same area?

When you dig it up examine the trunk.Try to peel the bark off in the area where the trunk meets the soil. The bark should peel off easy if the whole tree is dead. look for a white mycellium or black root like growths between the bark and wood either would indicate Armillaria. You can try replanting. Make sure the tree does not sit in a hole after the ground settles. Having the trunk sit in a little puddle of water after a rain is a sure way to kill a tree.

Ok. Will do. Again, thanks and enjoy your season.