Beech (Fagus sylvatica) bark problems

abciximab(7b/8)October 20, 2011

I have a 8 ft Fagus sylvatica 'Purple Fountain' with bark issues on the lower trunk. Despite knowing European beech grows best in Northern climates (zones 4-6), I planted the tree in my zone 7b Arkansas newly created pinetum. Hey who hasn't zone pushed before? The tree was B&B stock planted the 1st week of Feb 2011. I didn't notice any problems with the trunk or bark when planting. The summer of 2011 set record highs for temps and we had minimal rainfall. I properly watered the tree by hand not allowing the root ball to dry out throughout the summer. I'm assuming the tree partially defoliated early because of the conditions and transplant shock. All the buds on the tree are viable and look great. Recently, I noticed the bark problems on the lower trunk. In several of the places, the bark is brittle and breaks off leaving a whole. Could this be bark disease caused from the fungus Phytopththora? Isn't European beech supposed to be resistant to beech bark disease? I havn't noticed any liquid draining from the bare spots "bleeding cankers". It's documented that beech is also prone to wood decay and root rot. Do you all think this tree will make it? Any help or insight will be greatly appreciated! Thanks!


June 23,2011

October 20, 2011

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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Patrick: It's not possible to be 100% certain from the pictures, but the bark problem seems to be centered at the point where the Purple Fountain variety was grafted to the understock. This may be graft failure or any of a number of fungus diseases which may have opportunistically infested the graft junction. If it's possible to have someone with good tree knowledge - arborist, County Extension Service - look at the tree in person, you'd get a better analysis and possible recommendations for treatment. All in all, though, I'd say long term prospects for the tree are not good.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 4:40AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

I have to compliment you on the care you are taking with all your small plants. As can be seen in the background you gave each and every none their own individual protection from the worst of the fulls summer sun.

The good news is that there is some callusing over the wound in some pictures, the bad news is that if you look at the next to last picture, there is a line of discoloration in the bark that is remaining on the tree. We have had a great deal of problems with canker this year, and it seems to have basically almost always entered at the graft union. I believe it to be Botryosphaeria canker. The appearance is similar on all the trees, disease attacks 50+ species, and it fits this organism, plus the disease is highly favored by drought stress. I do not know if it attacks Beech. So I would suggest a bit of net searching. IF you decide that is what the cause is, then about the only thing you can do is remove the plant, and destroy in a manner so that there is no possibility of re-infection next year (the fungus over winters in the cankers). Meaning, no compost pile, but burn it or put in a trash bag to go to the dump, or whatever else you have available to you.

Wish I had a better suggestion for you.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 7:23AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

third pic.. are those sprouts above or below the graft??

as you note.. its all in the buds...

but i gotta be honest.. its not looking good ...

the zone gods may win this one ...

where did you get a tree of this size.. that is not zone appropriate??? bigboxstore??? ... is there a pending warranty???? if so.. you might want to return it ...

i am impressed with your thorough coverage of all pertinent facts.. lol.. sometimes its like pulling teeth.. just trying to get some relevant facts ...

SOMETIMES .... when zone pushing.. its better to start with much smaller stock ... so there is less stress .. so that the plant can get accustomed or established faster ...

that's a lot of damage in less than a year ... which makes me think.. that the damage .. under the bark.. may have predated installation .... in other words.. you may have lost this battle.. before it ever got to the property .... which again.. would make me suspect the source of the plant ...

good luck


    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 9:00AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Can someone explain those zone recommendations to me? Fagus sylvatica grows all over Southern England, especially on chalky soils, in z 8/9. According to Wiki it extends right down to central Italy.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 1:56PM
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I have a bunch of trees with similar ailments. I have already lost 3 of the dozen+ trees affected. This summer sucked the big one.

It looks like you are doing everything right as far as protections and I am going to assume planting. Sometimes bad stuff happens no matter how much we try to make it perfect. I would wait it out and see if the callous tissue closes the wound at least some next year.

How do you remember your username for GW?


Here is a link that might be useful: Disease

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 2:04PM
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Thanks everyone! I guess I'll wait it out until spring and see what happens. As I said, I havn't seen any signs of sap oozing from any of the wounds or fungal fruiting bodies. Whats the odds the wounds will callous over? I can't get another tree until late winter/early spring.

I'm constructing a small 1 acre collection of mostly conifers and maples but some other species. With our terrible summers, I've constructed tents/shade covers on most of the new plants to protect from late evening sun until the trees get established. I'll remove the structures after 2-3 years....ugly!...but small price to pay for healthy nonstressed specimens. It's not my place of residence anyway. I hand water each individual specimen during the first few years. During August-September watering every plant can take 4-5 hours per session but it will all pay off eventually.

I don't see any sprouts above or below the graft union. I bought the tree from an Oregon grower. I have a lot more trees coming this winter/early spring and will just order a replacement....just in case. I'll ask the grower if they have seen any similar issues on their field grown stock.

flora uk
Zone ratings of the trees is based on estimated coldest temperature a tree can survive. They're all estimated and a lot of factors come into play. All zone 7 areas aren't the same climate. In my situation....Once you get to the upper end of the zone ranges, I have to worry about my zone 7b southern U.S. growing conditions (high temps, humidity, etc) that a typical zone 4-6 tree isn't accustomed to. I should never have to worry about reaching the cold extreme limits of a zone 4-6 tree. I'm sure european beech can grow in mild zone 7-9 climates throughout the world. I think it'll grow in my area too.......once fully established.

Yeah this summer was horrible. Luckily I didn't loose many specimens. I lost a Larix eurolepsis (Larch) when we had that 112 degree day in August. It was ailing anyway. The extreme heat done it in. Funny thing is my other smaller larch are fine. Its was a bad year to plant larger specimens. They weren't established enough to handle the extreme summer conditions. Just too may roots removed from the B&B trees at harvesting and takes so long to regenerate!
Oh yeah....I remember my username abciximab because it is a generic drug name. I'm a pharmacist.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2011 at 12:09PM
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