Japanese Cherry Tree – Trunk Decay

Q: Our Japanese cherry tree trunk is decaying at the base, starting ten inches above the soil line. My wife thinks it’s termite or ant damage. The damage begins where I removed a limb years ago and has gone into the heartwood of the tree. 

A: I think the rot started at the top of the wound where the limb was trimmed off and a stub was left. The tree was never able to grow over the stub, rainwater got in and rot grew into the center of the tree. From there it moved downward in the trunk. It broke through the bark and the tree couldn’t cover it to protect the center of the tree from even more water intrusion. All this led to the rot you have now, not termites or ants. The damage to the trunk is likely so severe that the tree may fall someday. My advice is to enjoy the spring flowers until your tree falls or loses so many leaves that it is too ugly to keep. You can then remove it completely and replace it with a tree of your choice.

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