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We have a 50+ old plum tree in Auckland New Zealand, that fruits prolifically most years and we've just found major rot in one of the branches (see photo attached). The bark has fallen off and the wood underneath is soft and powdery. There are also signs of similar smaller areas on other branches. Can anybody offer any suggestions as to what this might be and the best way (if any) to treat it? Thanks Paulmajor area of rot

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    Welcome to SE. As first thing to do: take a branch and replicate the tree. Probably you will not find a similar variety. Possibly ask to a (plant) nursey (or some plant conservation society). Often they like to get old varieties (but they could graft plant for you). After that, you can care the patient (with following answers (hopefully)). – Giacomo Catenazzi Apr 25 '18 at 6:25
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    termites? wood eating bugs? – J. Chomel Apr 25 '18 at 7:16
  • Thanks for your thoughts.Termites are not a common problem in NZ so I don't think so and it doesn't look like borer (wood eating bugs) because there are no tell-tale holes that are typical with borer. I've never seen anything like it before. This tree's pretty special and we don't want to lose it! – Paul Ashurst Apr 25 '18 at 8:13
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    Fruits plants often do no live a lot, because of grafting: with age/growth, the different growth of the two parts will make graft incompatible. Was such plant grafted? Could you take a photo on graft zone? Mushroom on the lawn below the tree? [When there is a large problem above, with not clear disease, do not forget to check the roots] – Giacomo Catenazzi Apr 25 '18 at 8:53
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    There is something seriously wrong with your tree. Seriously wrong. Like old age? Plants have life spans. Some live for hundreds of years, other a few decades. Some just one season. Old age means the plant just gives in to insects and disease and dies. This branch needs to be removed at the trunk. That will help the tree use what little food it is making for itself somewhere more 'fruitful'? If you could send a picture of the entire tree as well as where the trunk meets the ground...we might be able to better help. Otherwise, I would hire an arborist to give you definitive advice. – stormy Apr 25 '18 at 8:57
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Your tree is a very, very old lady - average productive life span for a plum tree is around 10-20 years, though it obviously varies between individuals and many go on for longer, getting more gnarly as they do, see here https://www.hunker.com/12272347/fruit-tree-life-expectancy But 50 years and still fruiting well is quite remarkable, although it is not uncommon for a fruit tree to produce a bumper crop or two when it's on its way out. I don't think there's anything you can do to improve the situation, because ultimately, all things must pass.

The biggest risk might actually be the danger from falling limbs, so just ensure it's safe - any large rotten branches are best removed, assuming you're not ready to take the whole tree out. You might want to push against the main trunk to see if it moves at all, as well as inspect nearer the base of the trunk for signs of problems. If it does move, or there's rot low down, it could pose a real risk to people or property, and it might be better to remove it immediately; having a tree surgeon or arborist inspect would be a good idea.

  • Thanks for your helpful advice. Not what we wanted to hear but good to know (I didn't realize plum trees have such a short life span). We've lived at this property for 30 years and brought up three daughters who, along with their friends, all have fond memories of picking (and eating) many plums and making lots of plum jam and roll ups, etc. All the years of pruning and keeping her down to a manageable size clearly paid dividends. We've been truly blessed by this old lady. I would include a picture but can't see anywhere to upload. Thanks again – Paul Ashurst Apr 30 '18 at 7:57

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