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2BoysMom

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Reply with quote  #1 
I need help! We bought a house with 7 established fig trees two years ago.  Over the past 2 months two of the trees have had withering, dying leaves, one branch at a time, dying from the bottom up.  I thought it was an isolated problem, but in the last 9 days it has accelerated dramatically, so that one of them only has one surviving branch.  All I have done is try watering them extra a couple of times, thinking it might be dryness.  The other 5 trees are doing wonderfully considering the setbacks from last year's bitter cold winter.   
I don't see any bugs, fungus...any sign of invasion, just these browning, withering leaves, and the figs on the dying branches shrivel up and dry out  once the leaves are dead.

Any suggestions?
Thanks!
IMG_9910.JPG  IMG_9914.JPG  IMG_9915.JPG   

History- We are in Lancaster PA  zone 6.  The sellers of our home were Greek, and they lived here for 43 years, I know some of these trees are very old.  They did wonderful last year (our first summer in the house), I was picking 3-7 lbs every day or so for several months.  For winter we wrapped them with tarps and put dry leaves at the base.  Last winter was extremely bitter cold and snowy, and the trunks did not survive, but they all sent up dozens of shoots, which I pruned down to 5 per tree.  Some of the trees are now 10 feet tall, all from the ground this spring.

Photo of one of the healthy trees: IMG_9877.JPG


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2BoysMom
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Reply with quote  #2 
Save some cutting in the fridge ASAP!!!!!
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Ampersand

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Reply with quote  #3 
Hi there, welcome aboard!

I'm near you in Reading. There's at least 1 other forum member near you in Lancaster. If you have any interest in sharing/trading cuttings later this year, send me a PM or an email.

On to the topic at hand. Most likely it's root rot if you see no physical damage. There's not a ton that can be done for an in ground plant, but for starters do NOT water anymore. Figs are native to the Mediterranean which is much drier than our corner of PA, so figs, especially established as yours are, will rarely need water beyond rainfall. Sometimes that is too much! I see the downspout comes down right by the fig in the one photo, try to ensure that all the water is being diverted away by that black pipe. That concentration of water could be causing the rot. Do you have photos of the other plant?

To save the plant now I can think of 2 options: the easiest is to just wait another month or two until the plants go dormant and take cuttings to start new plants (assuming it's different than the other five). The other option, which might not work, is to dig the plant up, clean off the roots, and either replant in the ground or in a pot for a year to re-establish. It is getting a little late in the season for that though.

I could be wrong, but that would be my best advice. Good luck!
Aaron4USA

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Reply with quote  #4 
check the deeper soil level where the roots are, maybe it's completely dry.
2BoysMom

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Reply with quote  #5 
Hi, thanks for the suggestions.  I had no idea anyone could grow figs up north till we bought this home, so we are learning everything quickly!  I will take some cuttings and have them just in case.  This one is different than the others.  I have no idea what varieties my figs are.  This one is small and purple, very sweet. 
Ampersand, that downspout was clogged over the winter, it was coated in a thick casing of ice for weeks, and we finally got it unclogged last month.  So that fig has been getting lots of extra water, I hadn't thought of that.

The other tree has not been getting extra water, however.  It was the oldest, largest and most established.  There are stumps of 3 trees here, I keep pruning the shoots back to keep it manageable.  Here are photos of the other tree, figs are coppery purple with magenta inside. - IMG_9919.JPG 
IMG_9920.JPG 
IMG_9886.JPG


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2BoysMom
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gorgi

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Reply with quote  #6 
A very tough question!
Previously healthy fig leaves/twigs suddenly wilting off?!?
But not from lack of moisture... What could it be?

Did you spray any herbicide nearby lately?

Are there any strange (borer) insects at the base?

Peek some more...


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George; Zone 7a, New Jersey USA.
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Reply with quote  #7 
I bet the healthy growth on the first tree has plenty of roots after being pinned under that piece of concrete, and that is why is has not wilted like the others. Root rot.
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svanessa

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Reply with quote  #8 
Any chance it is gophers? You don't necessarily need to see a mound to have a crittern eating your roots.
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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by svanessa
Any chance it is gophers? You don't necessarily need to see a mopund to have a crittern eating your roots.


Good call. A few months ago, all the leaves on my youngster Panache curled up like it was completely dried out. It was on an automated drip line with many other fruit trees that all looked healthy. So, it seemed impossible that it could have been dried up. Since it looked dead, I dug it up and found that some critter (gopher? rabbit? vole? ground squirrel? Satan?) had made a cute little cavern where the root ball used to be.

Might not be your problem, but if it is, good luck with your cuttings.

[this post edited to fix typo]

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Paul the Fig Tree Destroyer in Fallbrook, CA (Zone 10A )

2BoysMom

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Reply with quote  #10 
Thanks for these suggestions.

-I will re-arrange the downspout to divert the water further from the first plant.
-No pesticides or herbicides sprayed anywhere nearby.
-I will look closer for borer insects at the base tomorrow.
-We have groundhogs here, I haven't seen any sign of them digging nearby.

-The healthy growth on the first tree is one of 4 branches I was trying to root by layering to share with friends.  The first 3 branches to die were the other ones under the cement.  And the one that is left is looking yellower than before.

Some internet searching found these suggestions for the same issue:
"Mottled yellow leaves in Ficus b. almost always signal a pest infestation. If you can't see mealies, check carefully for scale or spider miters. That the plant is losing older and lower leaves is also consistent with a mite infestation. Brown or transparent spots are a sign of plasmolysis. This can be caused by a fertilizer overdose or a build-up of salts from either/both fertilizers and/or irrigation water"

Thanks!

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2BoysMom
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Reply with quote  #11 
I have seen figs wilt from mole or vole damage, that is common enough of a problem on the east coast. Sorry to see your problem, hope you can preserve them.

Mike in Hanover, VA

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jkuo

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Reply with quote  #12 
I'm also in Lancaster, PA, and I know of at least one other forum member here in Lancaster.  I'd be interested in trading some fig cuttings.  I also have a few extra plants that I propagated from an unknown fig in the area.  If you need a replacement or extra plant, I'd be happy to give you a couple.
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Reply with quote  #13 
...And that member is The Bad Guy. Hi, I sent a PM if you'd like me to take a look. It is good to know we have a few members in Lancaster. Let me know if I can help.
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pitangadiego

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Reply with quote  #14 
Does appear to be a sudden loos of water/moisture. More likely loss of roots or under-watering. Ground would have had to have been very waterlogged to bring on such major affects.
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jdsfrance

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Reply with quote  #15 
Hi,
Tell us about your temps lately ?
Too hot ? - the tree is against a brick-wall and that could have cooked the leaves. Could you show us the terminal buds. If those are ok, "just do nothing" .
Already freezing temps ? Then just normal winter damage nothing to fear. Some plants are in a protected spot, and so they don't take the cold hit as soon as others.
The stems on your trees look erected and not wilted or pointing downward. Pointing downward is a sign of root or stem damage.

If you want to have spare trees, just pull a root-shoot - don't cut, pull gently at ground level with your two hands around the stem.
The treeling will come out with roots. Plant that in a pot filled with compost from the nurseries,
and see what happens .
If the potted perform better than the in ground (well, except for temps dropping), then there is a problem in the dirt : Rodents (Mole,Vole) , chemicals overdose ( weeding, fertilizer), pet watering the tree for you , too much water ...
Good luck !

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nycfig

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Reply with quote  #16 
Hi.  Welcome to the forum.

If all other variables were kept similar from last year to this year I would look to the downspout
since that is the only factor that has changed.  The tree has been getting lots of extra water due
to the unclogged downspout in addition to extra waterings from you because you though it was
drying out.

In any event, make sure to save some cuttings.  If you need another tree there are plenty of 
people in the forum that will help you out :)

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Ampersand

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Reply with quote  #17 
Hey, there's Bill.

We've had enough rain this year it's not underwatering, that's for sure.
Rob

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Reply with quote  #18 
I agree with Jon that overwatering is unlikely to cause such a dramatic impact more quickly. 

From one of the photos it looks like the eave/roof sticks out a couple feet from the wall.  That means there is no rainfall directly onto where some of the fig trees are located, at least the ones right near the house.  Probably the previous tree had a large root system that went down and away from the house far enough that it never got in the situation, and probably it was all connected.  Possibly now, with the top part dying, some of the shoots are now independent of the others and have shallower root systems.  It was OK for awhile as long as the water table was high enough.  But now there hasn't been rain for a week or two, and the water table is low, and all the moisture near the base of the house is gone.

It's possible there is also some sort of rodent implication, but I sort of doubt it.

To test my theory, just stick your finger a couple inches deep in the soil right near the base of one of the shoots that is wilting.  I bet it will be dry as a bone.

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Reply with quote  #19 
Hello
I grow my Canada prickly pear cactus under the eaves.  Cactus love dry soil and it stays really dry under the eaves.  Also the terrain typically flows away from the house for good reasons.

It looks to me that you may have created a microclimate that is a little too hot and too dry and the fig is not supporting its leaf canopy very well also some leaves are getting cooked next to the brick.

Easy to test dig down 1'  or so around the fig without disturbing it and see how the soil is.


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Pino, zone 6, Niagara
Wish List: Brogiotto Bianco, Fico Datto, Fiorone di Ruvo, Fracazzano Multicolore, Fiorone Oro, Popone, Rigato del Salento and other multi colour striped figs

Pino's Figs / Pino's Photos; 2017 Brebas / 2017 Main crop

2BoysMom

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Reply with quote  #20 
Hi everyone, thanks for all the ideas. 
The tree locations are fine, they have been there and healthy for years.  This year's issues appear to be the bitter cold winter that killed them down to the base, and in the case of the 1st tree, too much water kept in the ground.  The previous homeowner who planted these plans to stop by this week and see if he can help.

Today I weeded and pulled any mulch further away from around all 7 of my trees (healthy ones first!) and found 2 issues with the first tree.  The concrete rectangle I had used to hold 3 branches down for layering was keeping too much moisture under it.  I should have moved it away after a week.  Between that and the overwatering from the blocked downspout there was a ton of white mold or fungus under it, on the rooting branch and on all the mulch that had been trapped below.  I removed what I could see and threw it away.  Anything else I should do to that area?  I had seen suggestions of using hydrogen peroxide mixed 50% with water to treat fungus on branches after being wrapped for the winter.  I actually used that on some this spring (not these trees) and it helped.  Would that cause more damage?  It would get on roots, not just bark.  Second issue with that same tree is definately a borer insect eating the dead wood that is left from Spring pruning away the winter-killed wood.  The previous owner had said to cut where it still showed green, which was up to 12 inches above ground on most of the trees. 
Here are photos of the white mold, the borer holes and sawdust piles, and the terminal buds that jdsfrance asked for.
IMG_0147.JPG 
After I removed the white moldy mulch and dirt, this is the branch I was layering- the only one with green leaves left on it.
IMG_0179.JPG 

IMG_0177.JPG 

Tiny borer holes and sawdust:
IMG_0153.JPG 

IMG_0155.JPG 

terminal buds:
IMG_0134.JPG 
IMG_0132.JPG 

And for comparison, this is the same tree September 2013, on the right:
  IMG_5948sm.jpg 
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The second tree actually used to be huge (see last photo).  I had said 3 trees, but I meant that is has 3 other stumps from the SAME tree around it.  I saw no sign of a borer insect, there was not much mulch around the tree, and this one has not gotten extra water from a downspout, it is actually sheltered.  So I don't know what the issue is here.  It is behaving exactly like the one with those problems.

Here are pics of the second tree after I weeded around it:
In this first photo you can see on the far left corner and also in the center are stumps flush to the ground.  In the back center are a few foot tall stumps I had pruned back this spring.  These are all from that 1 tree.
IMG_0163.JPG 

This view from the side show vigorous shoots coming up where I keep pruning them back, much too close to the house.  I am leaving them for now.
IMG_0170.JPG 

For comparison, this is the same tree September 2013.
IMG_7444sm.jpg 
Thanks everyone, sorry for  all the large photos, I hope they help!


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2BoysMom
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Reply with quote  #21 
The rest of your trees look super healthy.
2BoysMom

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Reply with quote  #22 
Hi Waynea, Those pics are these same trees from last year, I didn't mean to confuse anyone. I wanted to show the dramatic difference.  But yes, the other 5 are doing well despite our bitter winter last year.
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Reply with quote  #23 
Keep looking at that second one for borer holes. Pathogens could have entered through their holes (the ambrosia beetle actually brings in the ambrosia fungus with it) or pathogens could have just entered through the cut trunks. Gently rub the trunk and roots just below ground level to see if the bark slips off. Cut off dead trunks as low to the ground as you can and look for discoloration of healthy wood inside.

I do suspect that the fungi on the first one could be causing the problem. It could be ambrosia fungi (or another pathogen) that has thrived in that humid environment and showed itself, normally it would only be inside the trunks. You can cut off the trunks with holes and split them to see if it also inside along with the beetles. The other branch you showed that was under the concrete does appear to have been attacked.

Check the bark on the healthy growth all the way back to where it emerged from the roots originally, it appears to be covered with fungi beneath the soil (rub the bark). If the fungi is attacking it I would dig it up and pot it, after cutting back to healthy wood and splashing some rubbing alcohol on the cut. Hydrogen peroxide will not be effective, live fungi can produce an enzyme that converts 2-H2O2 into 2-H2O +O2. There is no treatment for ambrosia fungus once it has entered the trunk, in the link below it is suggested that infected trees be burned.

The wilted branches are past the point of recovery or ripening fruit, they should still be viable for cuttings though (assuming there is no discoloration inside). Remove all figs and leaves (leave an inch or so of leaf stem) and then cut them from the tree after the sap has stopped bleeding. Store the cuttings in a sealed plastic bag until those leaf stems fall off on their own, in about a week. Then wrap the cuttings tightly in saran wrap and store in a seeled bag in the refrigerator. I suggest you send some cuttings out with the understanding that a plant is to be returned to you next season, if you need it. If you have not grown plants from cuttings yet you are likely to meet obstacles. You can count me in along with the other offers you have.
 
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Ornamentals_and_Turf/trees/note111/note111.html


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AZ_Fig1

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Reply with quote  #24 
Did you ever figure out the cause of why your figs were dying? Hopefully they survived! My fig is over 10 years old and is dying in the same way. It started last year but is slowly dying branch by branch. It looks exactly like the dead branches in your photos. The inside of the branches I have cut off are half black (almost like a yin yang). Our tree is very special to our family! Any help from anybody is much appreciated. I live in Arizona. It has been super hot this summer. I water it a lot and underwatering is certainly not the problem. Overwatering could be the problem however. We do have chickens which live near the tree as well just in case this may be a factor. Also, I have noticed the bark cracking and flaking throughout the tree.. Please help!!
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Reply with quote  #25 
Here are some diseases listed that can effect fig trees

https://plantdiseasehandbook.tamu.edu/food-crops/fruit-crops/fig/

Sometimes you can do everything right and your tree will still die. Replase the dead tree and if the new one dies with similar symptoms you may want to start looking at the soil.

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