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UPDATE On inspecting all the other branches, I found one of the branches in the following state. It shows the bark beginning to fall off the tip, explaining how the other branches have developed.I cut it off, sealed it in a box and put it in the fridge whilst I wait for an identification of the problem. It is still unclear what has started it - i suspect some sort of parasite? early stages

This has happened to one of my apple trees over the past few years, I'm now concerned because it is happening to other branches and there is very little one year growth on the tree. This is the shape of the tree, and ringed in red are the branches that are affected. enter image description here Does anybody have any ideas what might be causing this?

ringed tip

Here's another picture from a different angle, clearly showing the cambium layers and the profile of the edge on them. Nobody else has pruned the tree to our knowledge, could an animal have caused this type of damage? close up of 1 Here's a shot of the same damage having occured to another branch another inflicted branch

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    Was this pruned? The cut looks mechanical especially around the bark line. Has the tree been pruned and then the inner cambium layers grown taller that the surrounding bark? – user13638 Feb 29 '16 at 17:00
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    I also think it looks pruned, but the angle on the cambium layer and the bark is not the same. Would it grow that way? Or would that indicate separate cuts for the two layers? – michelle Feb 29 '16 at 21:10
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    The vascular cambium affects thickening of the stem and would not create a 'growth' like seen in the photo. I interpret the photo to show a stem that was pruned at an angle and that something or someone subsequently removed the bark to a lower level. That, in itself, wouldn't be a problem. – Jim Young Mar 1 '16 at 6:51
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    I agree with the others, it wouldn't subsequently grow like this once pruned. Do you have someone who has access to your tree to prune it without your knowledge? – user13638 Mar 1 '16 at 8:19
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    Could this be the slanted pruning cut followed by the shrinkage of the outer layers? – user13638 Mar 6 '16 at 19:02
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You have this kind of wounds of your apple tree because it was not pruned correctly. It cannot heal at the tip of the cut, so you must cut close to where the other buds or living branches are.

Opposite to other trees, you must cut very close to the buds.

Here is how to prune: very close to the parts that will go on handling life in them.

How to prune apple tree

What not to do:

Avoid leaving extra wood

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    I would say that apple is not particularly unusual in it requirement to cut close to buds. All woody plants will die back towards a node. The image on the left looks a little too close and the angle a little too steep. It's too close because there is always a small amount of dieback which in this case would threaten the cambium around the bud. It's too steep because it exposes and unnecessarily large amount of wood - the main purpose of angling a cut is to shed water which would be achieved with a cut half as steep. – George of all trades Feb 7 '17 at 14:18
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It appears that this apple tree is not at all happy. It is just not taking off and behaving as a young apple tree should, with vigorous vegetative growth and good solid shoots coming from the top of the whip. You should be seeing new shoots about 12-18 inches long with nice solid buds, and not necessarily any fruit buds at this point. What you have instead is weak growth, no long shoots, and a vague attempt at fruiting buds, maybe as a sign of distress. It appears that year 1 and perhaps year 2 were okay, but then something happened and it has done nothing remarkable since then.

So the question is why? It may be getting insufficient light (should be in good full sun), has its roots too wet (need good drainage year round, yes, all year), has no available nutrients or has been moved about experimentally too many times and simply cannot recover.

I think the next move might be to review the site, and if possible choose a new well drained and sunny location. Examine the roots thoroughly, wash off if necessary, prune back any dead and broken roots, and hope that in the new location it has the vigour to get back into the game.

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