Top of my apple tree is dead

Asked May 24, 2015, 6:29 PM EDT

I have an apple tree that I bought and planted 2 years ago. It isn't a great spot - lots of competition from poplar roots and sandy/clay soil with poor drainage. The year I planted it it didn't die, then the second year it half came back. There was a change in the bark going up the trunk and down some branches. The branches on the changed bark didn't get leaves, but the other ones did. This year, none of the branches above the start of the change in bark (2-3 feet up) are getting leaves, but there are about 10 new, little branches growing from the bottom half of the trunk and leafing out. Should I saw off the trunk just below the part where the bark changes?

Outside United States trees and shrubs plant disease home apple production horticulture

2 Responses

From the pictures you sent, it appears there is a sunken area along the trunk. Your message did not indicate where you are--so, I do not know if this may be climate related (cold damage) of if this is a disease. Regardless, if the top of the tree is dead, (in this picture it is hard to tell since the tree appears dormant) no harm can be done by pruning off the dead parts. The question is whether this will destroy the basic form of the tree such that it will not grow properly and fruit. I suggest you prune, see how the tree grows, but purchase another tree to plant in its place or nearby--as I don't think what will be left of this tree will perform properly. Start a preventive pesticide spray program on your fruit trees to prevent and control insect and disease problems. The link to Mississippi State University Extension Service publication on apple disease and insect control is :

Thank you very much - that's very helpful!