Failing apple tree
Our apple tree has been on the property before we purchased the home 15 years ago. Lately branches die and need to be removed. The trunk has small holes on it. Last fall it lost all leaves early and only had one apple. This year there are flowers and leaves again. Can we save the tree?
Howard County Maryland
The tree sounds like it has been subject to stress and is declining. If it is losing branches and not bearing fruit it is not a good sign. Looks like there was sapsucker damage to the trunk. Sapsuckers feed on sap and the insects that get stuck in the sap. This is not the primary cause of decline. Other reasons for decline include drought, poor drainage, poor site conditions, etc.
Apples in general can be long lived but are very susceptible to disease and insect issues. They require management and a spray schedule. Take a look at our website on apples and common problems http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/plants/apples
It looks like the tree may be close to your house but we cannot say for sure. We recommend that you contact several certified arborists regarding the health of the tree and the best way to proceed. http://www.treesaregood.org/
It may be helpful to look at our publication called How To Decide When to Remove a Tree. http://extension.umd.edu/node/2273