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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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Sunday - September 08, 2013

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Disease or insect damage on a Mexican plum
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Help, Our Mexican plum tree is about 13-14 years old. Earlier this year we noticed the trunk is oozing black stuff and whole branches are dying off. We have watched as our beloved tree has lost most of its remaining leaves this summer and want to know if this is just old age?? or perhaps something called verticullum??Chlrosis? SP? Is there anything we can do to save it outside of fumigating the ground? Would we be able to replant another Mexican plum in this location without treating the ground?

ANSWER:

Peach and plum trees are relatively short lived, often peaking around 10 years of age.  But it all depends upon conditions around the individual tree.  Your plum seems to be suffering from a fungal or bacterial disease, such as canker, or from attacks by borer insects.  The indicated websites give instructions for diagnosing the tree's problem and treating it. Deciding whether to doctor the tree or replace it probably depends upon your sentimental attachment to it.  A replacement tree should do well if you have taken the recommended precautions to destroy any pests that persist in the soil.  Also, young trees are usually more resistant to diseases than older ones.

If you do decide to replace your Mexican plum tree it would be best to wait until winter.  Replacements will be available in your local plant nurseries.

 

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