Acer palmatum atropurpuream
I think I have mentioned my lovely Acer in previous postings… I must have, I’ve been a total bore about it since we moved here five years ago. I would have shown pictures…
There is a well known flaw, or common attribute within the Acer family that is generically called – Acer die-back. This manifests itself as, well just what it says; The ends of branches or twigs just …die back. No one knows of the cause, it just happens.
However; In some cases the cause IS known…
Three years ago I noticed and then removed a few dead branchlets that had died back. Last year that same die-back took out a good proportion of the crown. A pitiful sight to see, half an Acer in full leaf whilst the other half is in full nudity; A silhouette of dead sticks.
I removed the dried and deathly twigs, branches and limbs. What remains is but a shadow of its former glory.
This picture was taken back in the spring after I had removed the offending branches.
By this time I had indulged in a bit of research (thanks RHS), which revealed that the tree is doomed.
Verticillium dahliae : A soil-borne fungal disease. A picture on the RHS site could be a carbon-copy of how my tree is.
The black rings are a bit smudged now but can still be clearly seen.
Once present in the soil, what this nasty fungus does is to enter the root system of the plant and infiltrate into the water-carrying capillaries (xylem) of the hapless victim and at any given point in the stem blocks the water conduits and produces toxins… The result is eventually death for the host. It can be slow or quick but the result is the same.
It is rather like a blood clot in the human body..
There is no known cure. Further, the list of plants that are susceptible to the fungus are legion. It (the fungus) is not fussy, it will attack trees, shrubs and perennials with equal measure. The list of susceptible plants recorded by the RHS is long and includes many trees I have considered as replacements.
The list of resistant plants is short.
Perversely, the tree is showing every sign of good health, even to the point of putting on lovely new growth up and down the branches and trunk.
A couple of Camelia, a lovely clump of Smilacina racemosa, a Pieris, my collection (three varieties) of Trillium, a delightful little Hepatica, various Primula and Cyclamen corms… All sit in the same bed alongside the virus. Some of them are probably going to follow the Acer to their doom.
The RHS suggest that if an area of ground is blighted with the fungus, the owner should consider turning the patch pf garden over to grass; For fifteen to twenty years!
The thought of living with an area of garden that I cannot plant up is alien to me.., I will plant another tree or large shrub but I will consult the list of resistant plants the RHS have produced.
My next step will be to call in the experts and remove what remains of the poor tree. That process may also require the removal of all the existing plants, but that is yet to come.
Happy gardening one and all. :)
- 31 Jul, 2015
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