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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - April 02, 2007

From: Placerville, CA
Region: California
Topic: Trees
Title: Disease and soil disturbance effects on Pacific madrone
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have a couple acres, here in Northern California Sierra Nevada foothills. My property has many, many trees - quite a few are the beautiful (yet messy!) Arbutus menziesii, or Pacific Madrone. Some are old, large trees, you can tell have been around a while. The past year they have gotten sickly, and not just on my property... in this area as a whole they have died back, their leaves dying and falling, their bark turning black. I am afraid that my Madrones will all die and it will be like I'm living on a clearcut! Any info? Suggestions? Anything?! Thanks a bunch

ANSWER:

What a shame! These are one of Mr. Smarty Plants favorite trees. Discover Life from the University of Georgia has a very good description of Arbutus menziesii (Pacific madrone) and factors affecting its health (look for the section 3/4 the way down,"Damaging Agents"). You can also read about Diseases of Pacific Madrone in an article from the University of Washington College of Forest Resources (CFR). In addition to diseases, madrones are very sensitive to root disturbance and greatly resent construction activities and development too nearby.

Mr. Smarty Plants recommends that you contact your county California Cooperative Extension Agent (Placerville is in El Dorado County, I believe) to help you determine the cause of the madrones decline and possible actions you can take to save it.

 

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