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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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Friday - February 11, 2011

From: Ponder, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Problems with Escarpment black cherry from Ponder TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have an escarpment black cherry that is about three years old and about 9 feet tall. It was healthy until this last summer when its began to bark peel and sap run out at the base of the tree. The affected area is about 4 inches wide and has almost completely surrounded the base of the tree. I think it will be fatal for this tree. What is going on and if I got another tree, should I expect the same malady? I could send a picture if that would help.

ANSWER:

Prunus serotina var. eximia (Escarpment black cherry) is not shown on this USDA Plant Profile map as being native to your area in North Central Texas, but rather is native on the Escarpment (thus the name) and Edwards Plateau of Central Texas. From our webpage on the plant, here is a description of its native habitat: "Thickets, woodlands, and lower riparian slopes. Moist, well-drained soil."

Natively, this tree is endemic to the Edwards Plateau, and the only information we could find on possible pests and diseases is titled Black Cherry, and refers to more than one species of Prunus. Please note this excerpt from that website:

"The leaves, twigs, and bark of black cherry contain cyanide in bound form as the cyanogenic glycoside, prunasin. During foliage wilting, cyanide is released and domestic livestock that eat wilted foliage may get sick or die." It is also known that consuming the seeds of the Prunus genus can result in serious illness or death in humans.

The problem your tree is having does not seem to be generated by the climate or soil in which you are growing it, but may rather be attributed to the fact that it is not growing in conditions considered optimum for it.

Since we are neither plant pathologists nor entomologists, we would suggest you consult the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Office for Denton County, where they may have encountered similar cases in your area. Your question was should you expect the same malady in a replacement? In view of the fact that this tree is not native to your area of Texas, we would consider it wiser to replace it with a tree that is native. Plants native to an area consume less resources and are more resilient in resisting disease and insect stress. You can go to our Recommended Species section, click on North Central Texas on the map, and then select "Tree" under General Appearance in the sidebar on the right. This will give you a list of several trees that should do well in your part of the state; following each plant link to our page on that plant will give you more information on expected size, light and moisture requirements, bloom time and so forth.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Prunus serotina var. eximia


Prunus serotina var. eximia


Prunus serotina var. eximia


Prunus serotina var. eximia

 

 

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