Fixing the Cherry Tree – Fighting Bacterial Canker and Gummosis

Having made inroads into the weeds, it had vaguely registered that the flowering cherry tree, the centrepiece of the garden, wasn’t looking too well. It burst into bloom this Spring as usual, but it didn’t look quite as spectacular – not quite as ‘cherry blossom viewing’ – as the year before …

Now I could ‘see the wood for the trees’ type-thang, there was a definite droop all round. Dead brown leaves hung from many branches instead of falling, green leaves didn’t look vigorous, and a detailed inspection revealed black swollen patches all over the place and a weird, sticky and revolting jelly-stuff clinging to stems and leaf junctions.

I solved the problem using a mixture of commonsense, and expertise from the BBC Lancashire site (thanks folks!):

As I dug out the huge tap roots of the weeds around it, it occurred that they must have been draining a lot of goodness from the soil, and that trimming off the ends of the worst affected branches might help too. I noticed as well that the rubber straps holding the trunk to its support appeared to be cutting in to the bark – I cut them off, praying that the tree wouldn’t keel over!

In need of guidance, I headed to Google, and came up with the excellent BBC Lancs Q&A – the problems listed seemed similar; apparently fruit trees, especially cherry and peach are prone to bacterial canker. Insect damage gives it an inroad/carrier, and once it’s in a tree’s system it can’t be cured, just managed. The horrid jelly was an airborne fungus, normally grey-green, but in my case amber-coloured, referred to as Gummosis, which seeks out breaches in a tree’s bark, especially those made by the canker.

I went back and had another look at the tree, and noticed splits in the bark on the older branches, now healed. It seemed my tree had been battling with this beast for a long time, and I felt rather indignant and angry. Some of the anger was with myself for ignoring the garden to the point that it’s focus was beginning to lose a long-term battle …

The Sages in Lancashire recommended cutting away diseased wood, which I’d done up to a point. But cutting it all away would leave me with a three-foot stump! So I decided to approach it more gently, giving the tree time to recover as we effected a cure. I gradually nibbled away the dangling browns and any new growth showing nastiness in the first week, and watered the outer area with some Bio plant feed I found in an old bottle in the cellar.

The gummosis continued to appear – it seems more virulent when the weather is warm and rainy. I lost my temper in the second week, and cut out the black canker on three of the large branches, down to the core of the stem, pouring boiling water over my knife as I went along. I dug out as much as I could, but noticed the black colour went right through the branch – rather like a childhood verruca – and that I’d have to hope the tree could fight that last bit.

The Sages recommended something called Arbex (or Arborex?) as a sealant, but I couldn’t find it locally and I was blowed if I was going to pay £4 for online delivery of a product that cost £3. So I got out my cigarette lighter and burned the cut areas, and noticed the horrid jelly made satisfying death pops when I experimented with the blue part of the flame. While these patches were cooling, I boiled a kettle and added that to a bowl which contained a splash of Tesco Antibacterial Handwash, and a squirt of Fairy Lime and Lemongrass washing up liquid (also antibacterial). I washed off all the jelly stuff and soaked any black canker areas using a cloth – my thinking being that the heat would kill the fungus, and the soap would kill the bacteria.

Once dry, I smeared the big cuts with Vaseline, (waterproof, neutral and petrol-based!), and retired to my Contemplation Chair for a cig.

A week later, and Mr.Tree is looking much happier: I did another feed using the the Bio bottle close to the trunk; and despite subtropical weather involving mist, rain and warmth (typical for the Edinburgh Festival!), the mere couple of yucky jelly blobs that popped up have been killed off before I’d had time to get out the soap-and-cloth solution. The big cuts seem to be healing too – rather than black canker, they’ve gone a chestnut brown, and the leaves further down the branches don’t seem affected.

This success has got me hooked – I find myself browsing seeds and plant pots online, when I’m supposed to be buying jewellery supplies. I have a creeping feeling that I’m going to become one of those Women With Trugs …

~*All images and text ©Cruel Lady*~

Published in: on August 27, 2008 at 4:51 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I was on the brink of taking out an infected ornamental cherry, but thanks to your post I now plan on using your remedy to try and spare it’s life… Thank you!

  2. You are most welcome – hope you manage to get the nasty stuff knocked back!

  3. I don’t know if this is the same thing but last autumn the leaves didn’t drop off as normal and were more like a skeletal brown appearance. We had the weird winter this 2012 and when normally it would blossom loads, there was hardly any, now in summer I’ve just got a few tiny leaves and loads of buds. I’m watering it with a sugar water I read could help, and feeding it with lots of nutrients. It’s still early days in my mass treatment regime, but do you think this will help? Thanks in advance, Andrew.

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