The plum tree produced lot of fruits last season, but, there is no sign of any leaves yet this year. We are well in to spring (Auckland, NZ) and all I can see is a bare tree and some green growth on it. I initially tried to remove it by hand, but, it did not work. The stem looks really dry and I cannot see any green scratching the surface. I do not remember exactly when we got leaves last time, but, it was very quick from nothing to whole tree full of leaves. obviously, I want to save the tree, any insights will be very useful.

Plum tree without any leaves

Plum tree- Closer look

Pine tree with the same issue

  • Any disease on the pine tree is likely unrelated. Shade cast might be an issue. An important point is whether the green foliage we can see behind the bare tree is actually coming from the tree, perhaps from the trunk or root system or is a completely different plant? Nov 11 '19 at 8:53
  • The green foliage is from a different plant. Zero leaves on the plum tree till now.
    – Kane
    Nov 11 '19 at 8:59

The visible signs here are indicative of a canker disease; the infection enters through a wound on branches, perhaps high in the tree, which contaminates the sap transporting tissues in the tree. These tissues become unable to feed nutritious sap to these branches which quickly dry out and the infection rapidly works its way lower, inside the tree, towards the soil surface, occasionally leaving one or two of the lower branches looking very healthy and raising your hopes, only to die completely the following year. Plum trees often get canker disease, particularly if there is a source of infection in the immediate locality.

In NZ canker is often referred to as bacterial blast - check out this page and this page for details and see if you see anything indicative of what you saw on your tree last year.

Edit: since the green growth is from a different plant and you see green cambium under the bark it makes the canker suggestion much less likely. It may just be a case of a small tree in an unfortunate location that puts it in a moist, cold microclimate relative to other similar trees, which would explain the lichen. No doubt in the fullness of time you will see signs of green leaves again.

  • There is a huge pine tree (just behind the plum tree) has the same kind of problem, but look healthy. I have just sprayed a copper based fungicide hoping that the Plum tree can be saved.
    – Kane
    Nov 11 '19 at 6:58

When you say 'green growth on it', I assume you don't mean leaves but possibly lichen or moss. Your tree might well be dead I'm afraid, especially if you cannot find anything other than dead wood in the branches; one clue is that you had a very good crop of plums last year. A heavy production of fruit just prior to dying is not uncommon in fruiting plants - it's the plant's last effort to reproduce itself because there's something wrong and the plant is on its way out.

However, because plum trees leaf out early in spring, if you have had variable weather it may be that the tree did start into growth, but sudden or late cold weather halted the process; when that happens, the tree will pause momentarily before recovering and putting out new growth. I believe it is still spring in your part of the world, so it's probably worth waiting a bit longer in case it does produce some growth, but if it gets to summer and there's still no growth, you may want to think about having it removed, including the main roots to a depth of 12/18 inches.

Whether you should plant another plum tree in the same spot is difficult to comment on because it rather depends on what caused the tree's demise; without knowing what symptoms it displayed, it's impossible to say. Looking at the photo, there is possibly a crack or a darkened area which might indicate previous gummosis on the trunk on the right hand side, but it's hard to be sure because it's been taken from too far away to tell really.

  • The green growth appears to be Lichen. Just sprayed copper based fungicide with a hope of saving the tree. I can still see some green tissue on scratching the surface of the tree. Still spring here and the weather has been cold since the spring started a month ago. Even last year, the tree was showing a similar look, but, suddenly (within a week), the whole tree began leafing out.
    – Kane
    Nov 11 '19 at 7:05
  • You don't need to worry about the lichen - its just a sign of healthy air. If its cold, then there's still a good chance the tree will leaf out once the weather warms a bit.
    – Bamboo
    Nov 11 '19 at 10:05
  • Unfortunately, there was no sign of any leaves on the tree through Spring and Summer. Going to eagerly await for next season with very little hope. :(
    – Kane
    Mar 28 '20 at 1:58
  • It's most likely dead but you can wait for next spring if you like - if no growth then, its definitely an ex plum tree....
    – Bamboo
    Mar 28 '20 at 15:57

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