What’s happening to this fruit tree?

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Q. I came across your gardening items. I have a question about my loquat, and was wondering if you would be willing to help me identify the problem. I have attached several photos to help. Anyway, I don’t know what is growing at the base of the tree but every time I remove it, it seems to grow back. It seems to be soft like but intact when you take it off. I am in Irvine and the loquat has been in the yard since about 2010. There are other issues with the tree such as the bark cracking. I know that at some point the tree may need to be removed, but it’s hard to imagine that day when there will be nothing there and provide shade for nearby plants.

A. Things are not going well for your medlar, I’m sorry to say.

Bark splitting is often caused by sun damage. Intense sun exposure (usually on the south or west side of the trunk) damages the bark and can cause the cambium to expand and split the wood. This weakens the tree and allows insects and/or disease to enter and wreak havoc. In this case, armillaria (a fungus) has infected your tree. The soft material you remove is the fruiting body of the fungus. Unfortunately, this is only a small part of the fungus – the rest has spread through the tree and cannot be removed. Your tree must be removed.

There are several steps you can take to prevent this from happening to the next tree you plant. Paint the exposed trunk with thinned white latex paint (thinned 50% with water). Let the lower branches grow until the upper branches can provide adequate shade to the trunk. The trunk does not need to be completely shaded, but it should have at least 50% shade to protect it from sunburn. Loquats tend to grow outward and get a bit bulky, so let it do its thing so the trunk can stay protected.

Q. Our little palm tree seems to have enough water and we fed it a few weeks ago with Greenall All-Purpose Plant and Lawn Fertilizer. Orange and yellow leaves look unhealthy. It is about 2 years old and has been planted by professionals.

A. Palms will normally have yellow fronds, usually older lower growing ones that need to be removed. When the whole tree is yellow, a nutrient deficiency is often the cause. In pygmy date palms, it is most likely potassium.

If possible, you may want to test your soil for the presence of micro- and macro-nutrients. It looks like your palm is planted in decomposed granite, which is very alkaline (high pH) and low in nutrients. The problem with alkaline soil is that it tends to bind nutrients, especially iron. This can lead to the general yellowing you see.

Regular application of a slow-release fertilizer, preferably formulated specifically for palms, can correct this. Depending on the soil test results, you may need to supplement it with a fertilizer that provides the necessary nutrients.


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