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I have a 6 year old citrus tree of the Washington Navel Variety.

A couple of weeks ago the weather warmed up so it did that burst of new growth, but upon inspection, they all seem to be watersprouts. They're all above the graft line, but they're weak looking leaves with "wings" and spikes on the boughs.

I realise you're supposed to prune them, but the tree seems to be mostly composed of watersprouts at this point (its looking very barren at the moment).

So, the questions are:

  1. Is this something that the tree is going to pull out of, or is the scion dead?
  2. Should I prune all the watersprouts? Is there a risk of killing the tree?
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Wings and spikes are pretty characteristic of vigorous growth on citrus, whether basal sprouts or upper branches. Watersprouts are an indication that something is stopping the flow of sap into the upper parts of the tree, so it is important to determine what that might be. Whether it is physical damage, insect, or disease should be fairly evident from the exterior bark - examine carefully the parts of the tree immediately above where the topmost watersprout appears. A photo would be helpful.

Immediate action depends on whether the top eventually starts sprouting out on its own. If it was healthy and normal the previous season then give it a chance and if normal leaves appear then cut the watersprouts back to the trunk to put all the sap into the top. If the top growth is weak or does not come back then you may be faced with training one or more of the watersprouts to become the replacement for the failing top.

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