What is wrong with my tree?

Asked July 8, 2016, 9:17 AM EDT

Hi, I have a small crab apple in my front yard. It is the only one (small, urban plot). I was out of town for 5 days and came back to it looking very wilted. Brown leaves, shriveled berries/apples. It looks like it hasn't been watered, yet no other plants around it are dried out. It rained while I was gone, and I have literally never had to water this tree. It appears it might be fire blight, but it doesn't totally fit the description. No black leaves. At least not yet. A little background: we have a garden very near by that is loaded with slugs. Could that be a problem? Our yard also has a lot of ants, which we have tried to take care of with ant traps. That worked a little, but could the ants or the ant poison from the traps have affected our tree? Pics provided below. If there is any treatment you would suggest please let me know! We obviously don't want to take out the tree if we don't have to.

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

Thank you for the question. 3 things come to mind when viewing your photos:

1. Tree age. The trunk looks somewhat large and aged and the crack looks deep and old. The tree may be at the end of its life cycle.
2. Fire blight. It may have a severe infection in the early stage. Nevertheless, the entire tree looks affected.
3. Trauma to the tree's root structure, limiting the flow of water and nutrients to the rest of the tree. I see construction equipment in the background and wonder if the area under, around, or outside the drip line of the tree has been disturbed or recently compacted? Older trees are particularly susceptible to disturbance.

Due to the severity of the problem, I'm not sure the tree is salvageable. Slugs won't bother it. It's hard to say if ants or ant poison are the problem. If it's valuable to you in your landscape, you might want to have a certified arborist take a look at it because viewing the tree in person is the best way for a professional to diagnose the problem.

Read more here about fire blight and how to hire an arborist:

Thank you for contacting Extension.