08 November 2019

Why are they dying?

I'm talking about trees. They seem to be in some kind of death spiral right now. Let me count the trees: two apple trees in our yard. At least two in our neighbors' yard. One out by the pond — it's is still standing but is completely dead. And don't forget our pear tree, which died about a year ago. Also, two very tall trees in the plot of woods on the north side of our property have come crashing down over the past year or two, for no obvious reason.





Here's a January 2019 photo of the big apple tree we lost last month. It's demise wasn't sudden. We'd been watching it decline for a few years. As I've said, mistletoe may have contributed to the tree's demise, but the parasite may well have just been taking advantage of a tree that was already sickly. We'd been seeing a lot of mushrooms growing around the tree's trunk for a few years. That's a bad sign, I guess.




Compare the photo above of a skeletal tree full of clumps of mistletoe to the one on the right, taken in the spring of 2017. That might have been the last time we had a good crop of apples from this big old tree. It certainly had a lot of blossoms that year.




Here's what happened to the tree about a week ago. Weather too must have contributed to its death, but not wind. Just rain and rot. First the limb on the left crashed to the ground, and a few days later down came the one on the right.




So now we have this view out toward the garden shed from the back door and the greenhouse. I sort of like it this way. It's open and airy.



And here's the view from the back gate toward the house. You can see that the crew that helped us by removing the fallen apple tree also cut up the burnable wood and stacked it for us. Our plan is to burn it in the wood stove starting in 2020.






Finally, and this one is maybe the saddest loss for me, the pecan tree in my mother's back yard in Morehead City, N.C. — behind house I grew up in and where Ma lived for 54 years — suddenly gave up the ghost this year. I learned about it when I was there in October. There will be no more crops of those delicious paper-shell pecans. It was a tree my mother had grafted and planted back in the mid-1970s. Is all this just weather-related, or is it climate change?

18 comments:

  1. I love trees. OK maybe not Ailanthus, but sad to see you lose these. Maybe the water table in your area has gone down, as your neighbors trees also perished. Google says apples live over 50 years in optimal conditions, and that dwarf varieties have shorter lifespans.

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    1. There are two other apple trees in the yard that seem healthy and don't appear to have any mistletoe living in (on) them. It could be that the water table here has been lowered by drought, especially since we are on top of a hill. The current rains should replenish it. Also, I think the two apple trees and the pear tree that have died were probably 50 years old or older.

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  2. I think you've pinned it. Age and drought stress are the primary drivers. The appearance of fruiting bodies of fungi are your clue they are on their way out. Nothing you could have done to save them.

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    1. You leave out the mild, damp winters that leave pests unscathed. They thrive and multiply. We need more cold winter weather, more snow, more frequent hard freezes.

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  3. D., we're sur la même longueur d'ondes, on the same wavelength. I was going to say exactly the same thing, word for word. Trees, whichever the kind, are beautiful, even Ailanthus, ailante in French, but this one is such a nuisance! In the yard of the building next to me in Paris, there is a female Ailanthus that sends seeds all over my small yard, and I have a hard time getting rid of them. So, my advice is, plant any kind of tree; it's good for the planet, but stay away from the Chinese Ailanthus.

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    1. chm, ailanthus always reminds me of when I lived in NYC...taking Amtrak or NJ transit the trains would pass through old, empty industrial areas with Ailanthus springing up everywhere.

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  4. It's great that you had that pecan tree all those years, Ken. What did you have to do to those pecans to be able to eat them? Is there a marked flavor difference between the fresh-from-the-tree pecans and the ones we buy?

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    1. All you have to do is take the nuts out of their husks, and then shell out the nut meats. The paper-shell pecans produced by the tree in my mother's back yard were really easy to crack open. Then you can just eat them, or make a pie, or toast them before eating them, or put them in the freezer for later. Are store-bought pecans fresh or toasted?

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  5. Sometimes trees seem to bloom profusely when they feel endangered. So possibly that 2017 bloom might have been a sign the tree was not doing that well. So sorry about the Pecan tree.

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    1. I think you are right about profuse blooms and bumper crops of fruit coming when a tree is in decline. When our two plum trees were uprooted in a windstorm in 2010, we had fantastic blooms and loads of plums the next summer and fall. Then the trees died. Yes, it's too bad about the pecan tree. It died just a year or so after my mother left this world.

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  6. Sorry about that pecan tree. Your mother was smart to have planted it for so many years of good eats. Toasted pecans are my favorite treat this time of year along with cheese straws.

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    1. As for that pecan tree that died, my mother sold her house in 2005. The people who have owned it since then use it as a vacation house, for short stays, I think. One of my closest cousins still lives just two doors down, and he always went over there in the fall, when nobody was living there, and gathered huge quantities of pecans that had fallen to the ground. He shared them with Ma.

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  7. Store-bought pecans, in the US, are treated with radiation to ward off whatever was deemed the disease du jour about ten years ago. I vote for drought and too-warm winters/climate change as culprits. I've seen apple trees at least a hundred years old in New England that were still bearing, albeit rather skaggley fruit.

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    1. See my comment to Evelyn above about those paper-shell pecans. Over the autumn before Ma passed on in February 2018, she had spent many hours and days shelling out quarts and quarts of pecans that our cousin brought her. It was her daytime and evening activity as she sat and watched old movies on cable TV once she go to the point when she couldn't drive much any more. After she died (I was there), I brought back a lot of zip-top bags full of the nut meats to France and kept them in the freezer. Walt and I enjoyed them, but now they are all gone.

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  8. Oh Lordy,you bring back so many memories of climbing the pecan tree with my cousin and being rewarded for our work with slices of pecan pie fresh from the oven.
    I have not had any pecan pie since growing up and the death of my grandmother. It would never be the same:)

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    1. There's nothing better than a good pecan pie made with Karo Syrup, pecans, eggs, and butter. Do you want my mother's recipe?

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    2. I would like that recipe...

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