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Dying Orange Tree - Can it be saved?

We moved into this house two years ago. We are located in Jacksonville, FL. The backyard included this large, beautiful, mature orange tree that produced large and sweet fruit. It was a productive tree until about 6 months ago. We noticed the leaves turning yellow and the oranges becoming black, their growth stunting at a quarter of their normal size, and falling off. Then the leaves fell off too. Now the bark is peeling.

The only change in the environment was my husband started a "compost" pile next to the tree, over the roots. This isn't a compost pile. It's a pile of dirt, leaves, yard trash, and dog poop. I hate the pile and I think it has something to do with the tree death but he insists it's "great for the yard and tree." The tree is basically dead. It started dying after my husband created the mound. I know this doesn't indicate causation, but it can't be helpful.

Can it be brought back? Would a large mound of dirt and dog poop kill it? What happened to my tree? :cry:

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Re: Dying Orange Tree - Can it be saved?

I have no clue as to what's causing the damage, but it doesn't look too good, especially with the way the bark I peeling away from the trunk. I've heard once the bark is badly damaged on a citrus tree, there is little that can be done for it. You may be better served taking these pictures to a local nursery to see what their take is on this.

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Re: Dying Orange Tree - Can it be saved?

Well, considering the apparent size of the tree, I don't think a well-maintained compost pile would have become a direct cause of the tree's demise ...unless the material were piled up against the trunk of the tree, then it's possible. No way to say for sure without knowing what condition the pile had been in.

Other possible reasons I could propose would be -- some kind of animals were attracted that chewed or scratched the bark -- or while turning and digging the pile your husband might have accidentally damaged it -- roots, trunk.... You mentioned dog poo -- I suppose that could have supplied excessive nitrogen to that particular area and over-fertilized weak growths or smothered, overly moist = root rot --- I'm thinking any of these could have become entry point susceptible to pest and/or disease.

But it could also simply be that the tree became infested or became diseased by a locally prevalent pest or disease. I'm amazed it only took 6 months from healthy to the current condition. You mentioned yard "trash" -- could there have been some kind of herbicide or other toxic contamination?
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Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Dying Orange Tree - Can it be saved?

The debarking may be a sign of tristiza virus. Citrus tristiza virus is transmitted by infected aphids. In Florida and Hawaii it is a common disease. In Hawaii pretty much all of the trees are infected so the only thing to do is to graft onto resistent rootstock. Resistant root stock is not immune but allows the tree to live for about 20-30 years and time for it to give good fruit before it literally falls down. Bark separating and peeling is one of the later signs. When the bark peels on the smaller branches they are just cut off, but once the bark starts peeling off the main trunk, then the tree needs to be cut down as it is dying. Symptoms prior to these late signs are really good harvests for several years. It is the tree's attempt to propagate before it dies. People think they need fertilizer and try that, mainly because most people don't water or feed fruit trees here unless they start giving poor fruit. They also complain about the sooty mold but don't realize that the aphids, scale, and ants are the real problem. The aphids carry the virus for life and they can easily travel from tree to tree. After the years of really good harvests and the tree starts to stress, usually this is when the smaller branches start to debark, the trees start producing poor quality fruits and fewer fruit. Again people try fertilzer, but the problem is that as the tree debarks water transport is inhibited, it gets worse once the pitting starts. The other reason that trees will stop producing is because people severely prune the tree. Citrus trees do not tolerate hard pruning. It is better to prune a little bit every year instead of lopping off half the tree. Citrus will stop production until the canopy grows back in a couple of years.

The other reason for debarking would be because the "compost pile" is not just next to the tree, but actually has been dumped on the lower bark of the tree which will cause the bark to rot and impair water transport. The bark damage will eventually cause the rest of the branches to die and debark, but the end result is the same, the tree is dying and probably needs to be cut down. ... ndex.shtml
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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