The Q&A Archives: Redbud tree cracks, flaking off

Question: The bark on my 15-year-old redbud tree cracks, turns brown or black and flakes off a few branches. The branches eventually die. What's the problem? Robert McGee Union, NJ

Answer: It's a Botryosphaeria fungal canker. Wild and cultivated redbuds all eventually get this fungus and die, says Phil Waldman, owner of Roslyn Nursery, growers of 10 varieties of redbuds in Dix Hills, New York. The average life span of redbuds is only about 20 years, he adds. This canker is widespread on many types of ornamental trees in North AmericA. It enters the tree through wounds and natural openings in the bark. Even though you can slow the spread of the fungus by cutting off and destroying infected branches, your tree is getting old, and I'd suggest cutting it down and planting another, was Waldman. There are no disease resistant cultivars of redbud, but white flowered varieties such as Royal White seem to be less susceptible than the red flowered varieties. To keep your redbud healthy, grow it in partial or full sun, provide plenty of moisture and feed it in spring with a good mulch or a balanced fertilizer such as 10 10 10.

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