What should I do about my fruit tree that has only a few leaves on it?

Asked May 9, 2015, 3:59 PM EDT

We moved into this rental house last year on May 1, and the fruit tree in the backyard was already leafed out. I'm not sure what type of fruit tree, but, according to the landlord, it's a pit fruit of some kind that fruits every other year. Currently, a year later, it's mostly still bare with maybe 20 leaves at most on a few of the upper branches, and many of the buds on the lower branches look dried out and brown or grey and feel hard and dry. The trunk has a crack in it, but I think it was like that last spring when we moved in. Is it normal for a tree not to leaf out on all branches at the same time or to leaf late? Is there something we should do for it, or should I let the landlord know there is a problem with it? I'm from Southern California and relatively new to Colorado, so I am not real familiar with the climate and plant habits yet. We live in Centennial East (80015). I've attached a few pictures.

Arapahoe County Colorado

1 Response

We have seen many fruit trees with damage from last November's severe cold snap and the late frost this spring. Leaves are sparse on many fruit trees.

However, looking at the pictures from this tree, I think there are some additional issues with the tree. The large split in the trunk with oozing sap noticeable in several places can be signs of disease. There are a number of diseases, insect damage, and other causes for the tree decline that is evidenced in your photos. It is hard to see if there are any orangish fruiting spores or orangish-looking spots on the tree trunk or blackish/brownish fruiting spores, both signs that the tree had an internal fungus. You can look at the trunk and branches of the tree to see if you see anything that looks like small spots in these areas.

You can also look at the branches and scrape a bit of the bark off an area that looks dead. If there is green, soft tissue under the bark, the tissue is still alive; if it is brown and dried, the twig/branch may be dead or dying. Additionally, you can bend a twig to see if it is pliable or if it snaps; twigs that snap off contain dead tissue.

Since this is a rental property, you may want to let the landlord know that the tree is not leafing out as it should and perhaps he/she would like to have a tree professional look at this and give recommendations regarding the health of the tree.