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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)). Apr 25, 2018 at 6:25
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    termites? wood eating bugs?
    – J. Chomel
    Apr 25, 2018 at 7:16
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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] Apr 25, 2018 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, 2018 at 8:57
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    Thanks for all your input. Yes, I have come to the realisation that the problem is one of age. I've started to take out the rotted areas and hopefully when I'm finished there'll be enough of the old lady left to give us another year or two. If not I'll sadly have to take her down. Just a comment on the points above: I did not plant the tree so not sure if it was grafted. Mushroom type fungi has started growing on some of the branches in the last couple of years (never seen this before) but not on the lawn. Apr 30, 2018 at 3:26

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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.

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  • 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 Apr 30, 2018 at 7:57
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If it were my tree, I don't care how old it is, I would still want to take care of it. Myself I would cut the branch off, I have bought a little battery chain saw, for pruning. I would then treat the cut with a special solution that keeps rain away. I live in Wales, so we probably have different makes over here. Therefore buy the product first, then prune the tree.

It might be that your tree never gets watered? In a hot summer over here even, we need to give fruit trees a bucket of water every week if its hot weather.

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