fruit tree bark damage #305858 - Ask Extension


fruit tree bark damage #305858

Asked March 09, 2016, 1:12 PM EST

I have a small group of fruit trees: apricot, apple, pear, and plum. All are showing greater or lesser deterioration of the bark at the very base of the trunk, just above the ground. The apples seem to be worst, revealing bare wood rather than the bark you would expect. The apricots' bark (at the Base) is black, thin, curled, and dry and was the site of an amber-colored sap at the end of last summer. Also, While the apricots were huge in number last summer, they all dropped within several days. Do the trees share a common problem? Treatment? Is a dressing of some sort in order?

Cecil County Maryland

Expert Response

If all these different species are showing a similar problem, which suggests the problem is cultural/environmental, not a disease or insect.  You can reply to this email with attached photos of the trees' bark.  However, we can say now that a possibility is that mulch could cause such a problem. Mulch should never touch the bark of a tree.  It should be pulled back several inches.  Not only does mulch piled on tree trunks hold moisture and thus encourage disease, but insects hide there and borers, in particular, will infest the tree.  The sap you mention is probably from borers.  Mulch should also not be more than 2-3 inches deep.  

 Send us photos if mulch is not the issue. 


Mulch has never been used. All of the trees were purchased  as dwarf(from Stark). I opted to keep them as dwarf trees by keeping the graft above the ground. Could what I'm seeing be the original graft where it connects to the root stock?

I have tried to include a couple of pictures but am, regretfully, not sure of what you'll wind up with.

If you need anything further, please let me know.   Thanks

The Question Asker Replied March 22, 2016, 10:02 PM EDT
Tree fruits can be difficult to grow well in Maryland without a pretty strict management schedule due to the many pests and diseases that can have.
It looks like you have borers within this tree, and there is not much you can do at this point. It will eventually kill the tree.
Depending on how you want to manage your garden in general, with chemicals and without, here is information
Take a look at  -excellent pub with spray schedule . Be aware that they list a few materials that we cannot recommend because they are not registered in MD: thiophanate methyl (Cleary’s 3336) and gamma cyhalothrin (pyrethroid). Also, they recommend esfenvalerate, a pyrethroid that is highly toxic to bees and other pollinators and natural enemies. This insecticide should be restricted to before bloom use.

organic disease management for small fruits. Although this is aimed at commercial producers it is excellent and appropriate for backyard growers  

Penn State’s Fruit Production for the Home Gardener is excellent. It has rich IPM info- pest descriptions and lifecycles, appearance, best time to control, lists of pesticides, etc. Everything  but spray schedules.

Va Tech home fruit spray schedule. Pets and timing are fine. The issue is once again with actual labeled products.

Ohio State’s Disease Management for Organic Apples- aimed at commercial audience but excellent for homeowners.

Solid information on organic pest management in apples.

General small/tree fruit information – no spray schedule



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