Losing Trees: Pyracantha Problems

This tree was collected in 2005, from a very large and very old hedge. It came out in 3 chunks, this was the middle-sized chunk. I had to use a chainsaw to separate diggable (is that a word? You know what I mean) portions. The left side of this one was sawed under, and I’d been trying for years to get it to root. It issues a few then, kind of quits. See the cut, and the attempted roots?

The scar is where I removed a branch ten years ago, which obviously never callused over, and began to rot. Additionally, a few years ago, they trunk split, at the front, forcing me to do a little carving. I think that sets up the subject of today’s post. I’m afraid I’m losing the tree…after a Best of Show at the 2015 Alabama Bonsai Society Show, an appearance at the Carolina Bonsai Expo…and acceptance into the 2016 US National show in NY.

Leaves turn yellow at and around the veins, then the whole branch dies.


I lost big branches on the left trunk, forcing a Trumplike combover for the Carolina Expo last year. This spring, the primary branch on the left trunk started weak and got worse. Kathy Shaner visited my garden in May and suggested I wrap the branch and the side of the trunk to keep it from drying. Worth a try, as I’d rather not have to completely restyle the tree from one of my favorite styles (twin trunk) into something more static. So in Mid May, I found an ugly old hand towel (I assumed it wouldn’t be missed), which blended in surprisingly well, and wrapped the branch and side of the trunk. Here is where we started:







It must have been too far gone, because by mid-June, the lower left branch was dead.



So I removed the dead branches and the wrap.

And pruned the lower-right branch to balance the left side. I still don’t know what’s wrong, but the necrosis has stopped since June, so we’ll see. I have decided to let the tree do what it’s going to do; and I’ll respond. For now, I’ll just let it grow and try to keep the aphids away.

The dieback continued, and it looked like this by mid-September:


And I grew tired of watching it suffer, so I removed everything that was dead/dying:


Then pruned the remaining growth back hard in an attempt to shock the tree into budding back.

It went to a back bench…where it gets more sun and less attention. It’s a tree that grows anytime the temperature is above freezing, so it has a good 2 months left to go. We’ll see.  The right side of the tree remains very strong in Mid-November, so a good redesign is hopeful.  Maybe something like this

So, with Alabama completely dominating Miss State 44-3 in the 3rd, I decided to get started on the plan.  11/12:

The result:

And a little drilling for drainage and to round out the flat cut a bit:

Next up, a little pruning and wiring…


9 thoughts on “Losing Trees: Pyracantha Problems

  1. See the Penn State Univ. article (on-line) Diseases of Pyracantha. Do any of the symptoms listed match up with what you have seen? I believe fireblight is pretty common, and yours is an old specimen. A systemic fungicide might save it(we hope).

  2. Sorry to see this Brian! Always a heartbreaker and something most of us can relate to. As Judy said, I am sure you’ll make something out of this, I have no doubt. Regardless a good post!

  3. Brian, sorry to see this tree having problems. I have always been amazed at how you took this from the start to what you had. I keep my eye on pyracantha in every neighborhood I drive through, watching for some one to be getting rid of one.

  4. I too have found that Pyracantha wounds don’t heal. Always a certain wistful sadness over the loss of something we care about so much. But I’m wondering if you’ve found a way to encourage flowering. I remove about 50% of leaves in the spring to allow more light into the interior but still it’s spotty and some years are markedly better than others. You’ve probably seen mine on the nut. I’m Shima there.

  5. I had systemic dieback on my pyracantha causing gradual death of the vast majority of branches. Did you find any raised pink / orange postules on yours Brian? They only appeared after the branch had died. Please treat the deadwood so it can’t get infected & pass into the live section of your remaining tree.

    1. Maybe…? I seem to recall something similar to what you describe peeking up in the cracks of the bark on that side. I’d have to look back, but the leaf symptoms and branch death really lead me to think fungal or root problems on that left side. I’ve been treating it and all the trees more proactively with fungicides this year.

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