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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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Thursday - June 12, 2014

From: Erie, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Trees
Title: Eastern Redbud Flowers and Leaves Dried Up
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I have a young Eastern Redbud that started blooming last year. This year blossoms formed and leaves started to come, but now they are all dried up. What might have caused this?

ANSWER:

So sorry to hear that your Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is not doing well. Something has stressed your young tree and the plant had just energy enough to send out new leaves and flowers this spring but this may have been the extent of the reserve that the plant has.

There are many situations that could cause the tree to start to show signs of flower and leaf damage. Perhaps the harsher, and more prolonged, winter that you had in Erie, PA damaged the tree. Other possible causes include salt spray damage, waterlogged soil in the spring causing damage to the roots (Cercis has to have well-drained soil), or verticillium wilt fungus disease plugging the vascular tissue of the tree. The tree isn't being attacked by an insect. The problem looks like it is either caused by a physiological (environmental) situation or from a pathogen such as fungus. 

Some detective work is needed to narrow down the cause of the damage. A careful investigation of the plant roots is a good way to see if there is damage present below ground. In addition, cut a twig to see if there is a dark ring or dark pin-point spots in the cross section which is a sign of verticillium wilt.  

The Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder has some good information about Eastern Redbud culture that might help you solve your mystery and help your tree.  In any event, your plant needs some extra care and attention to nurse it back to health.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

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