Cherry tree branches dying

Asked April 15, 2020, 12:10 PM EDT

I have an old cherry tree in the Willamette valley of Oregon, probably planted in 1950, where the branches are starting to die. There are a few large dead branches and many small branches where the leaves at the ends are starting to die before forming. The "tree" is actually two different trees. There is one with white flowers that go up and one with pink flowers that have lower and droopy branches. It's the pink flowered tree that has dying branches, the other one seems healthy. In addition to the dying branches, the leaves on the pink-flowered tree have spots all over them. Some other information is that the tree had a layer of plastic and landscape fabric at the base, forming a water tight barrier. This was there when we moved in, so I can't be sure how long. It seems that same barrier killed two other trees in the yard, so my guess is it was there for many years. I removed the fabric and plastic, damaging many shallow roots that lied between the two layers. The soil underneath the plastic was very dry. I also saw a rather large hole, about 1.5" diameter, in the soil where it looked light a root penetrated, a white coating remained on the soil there, no root anywhere. After this I sprayed the tree with a foliar spray fertilizer as well as adding water and fertilizer around the base of the tree. Additionally, two years ago we planted a small plum tree, about 8 ft in height. That plum tree has problems of its own, I believe peach leaf curl based on my previous gardener's opinion. The leaves there also have holes, although they seem to be of a different character to me. I'm hoping to find out what is going on with the cherry tree and if there's a way to help it survive. Also, if you have ideas on the plum tree, it is in an awful state and I'm not sure it will survive through the year. The plum tree also has gash shaped holes in the bark although I don't believe it was physically damaged. It may be better to get rid of it if it's spreading disease to other trees (I have 2 pear, 1 apple, and 2 fig trees also) Since I can only add three images here, I send a link to images of the plum tree Thank you!!

Linn County Oregon

1 Response

Indeed, you do have two trees (I think). The original tree was likely a lovely flowering cherry with large double pink petals. But many of these are produced on a common cherry rootstock or even a tall interstem. It is not unusual to have one or more buds from the rootstock or interstem grow into a shoot and, if not cut off, take over the entire tree. You might never know anything was wrong except at flowering when the rootstock just has those simple single petal white flowers.
So you have an investigation to do. Trace the large limbs of each type of tree down and see where they come out of the trunk. I expect that the white flowered "cherry" tree branches are coming from below where the the pink flowered weeping cherry originate on the trunk. If true then yes the rootstock seems to be more vigorus and is shading out the other part of the tree. You could cut off the larger rootstock or interstem branches and see what happens to the tree. If you favor the white flowered part you might find that the fruit it produces is not the kind of fruit you want to eat. Could be small and sour. Or you can leave the tree as is and see what happens.

The holes in the weeping part and in the plum are something we call shothole. Most Prunus species around here have a problem with it more less including peaches. The weeping cherry likely has a problem with it from the over dominant cherry side. You read about this disease here:

and here: