Italian Cypress Dying - Knowledgebase Question

Carlsbad,, CA
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Question by Lab51
July 26, 1999
Two of my nine Italian Cypress trees---all mature and in a row spaced about 2 feet from each other---have died about 9 months apart, and others also show signs of it. These trees have been at full height for at least 10 years, and we have made no changes in watering in that time. The branches all seem to begin turning brown and drying up at the same time all along the tree, starting with the outside tips, and the process is relatively fast, over about 4 to 6 months. There are a few lesions in the bark of the lower trunk, and some sap oozing, but this does not seem to be the cause. No insects (e.g., borer beetles) can be seen. Could be a fungus, but which? Please let me know the various possible causes (either insect or disease), and how to treat each one.

Answer from NGA
July 26, 1999
I'm sure you appreciate how difficult it is to diagnose a problem without seeing it, but Cupressus sempervirens, or Italian Cypress is subject to two common problems, one a disease and the other is an insect. Here's the rundown on both problems:

CYTOSPORA CANKER (Cytospora cenisia )
Symptoms: Girdling cankers on branches. Young branch cankers are smooth, reddish brown, and slightly constricted. Foliage on girdled branches turns yellow and finally brown.
Control: Avoid wounds. Prune out diseased branches in the dry season, cutting well below visible infection (6 inches where possible). Remove and shred (chip) prunings; dispose of prunings away from cypresses.

The cypress tip moth feeds on a wide variety of cupressaceous trees but most notably on Lawson cypress, Leyland cypress, Monterey cypress, Italian cypress, Oriental cedar and some species of juniper having scalelike leaves. Other closely related species of the genus Argyresthia also cause similar damage to these and other cupressaceous trees.

Summer and fall feeding larvae hollow out and kill individual scale leaves, but more severe damage occurs during early spring when entire twigs and branchlets are mined. Repeated heavy infestations may eliminate any apparent growth. Heavily infested trees suffer considerable dieback, imparting a scorched appearance to the foliage. Trees are seldom killed but their attractiveness is marred.

If neither of these descriptions matches the symptoms, why not take a sample of the problem to your local Cooperative Extension office?

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