Is this California Pepper Doomed?

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te tat do
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Is this California Pepper Doomed?

Post by te tat do » December 28th, 2021, 3:16 pm

So this tree is roughly 25-30 years old, thrived for many years and is located growing on a slope, it is growing right next to a very tall eucalyptus tree.

Probably about 5 years ago, it got attacked by a woodpecker, which did quite a bit of damage to the bark but the tree, for the longest time seemed unfazed by it, it kept growing and thriving. About a year ago, after a major wind storm, i noticed most of its leaves dropped off and it looked quite bare. Because it is located on a slope, and the slope doesnt have much foliage, I didnt irrigate it that often and it seemed to thrive fine like that for years. My gardner suggested that it might be drying out, so I got a deep root watering stick (the kind that is 2 feet long and attaches to a hose) and proceeded to deep water the tree through out the hot southern california summer. I pruned many of the suckers coming off the main trunk and it started showing much more growth from the trunk.

It seem to respond and started growing some new foliagem but still looked quite weak throughout the summer. There was new grown but many branches still were bare.

Fast forward to now, we are in winter and I started noticing die back from the top of the tree, little by little the leaves turned brown and dropped off. I'm noticing this white substance oozing from the woodpecker damaged bark and all the new foliage is dropping off. However I still see new growth coming off the main trunk int he form of small sprouts and possibly suckers.

I was suspecting possibly armarilla root root, but it is located literally inches from that tall eucalyptus, and that tree is thriving. I have stopped the deep watering as we are now getting tons of rain.

There were two fo these trees on my slope, one died in 2018 in a similar fashion and I cut it down, but I never figured out what killed it. Looks like this tree is going to meet the same fate.

I went up on the slope and tried breaking a coupe of the dead looking twigs, and i expected them to be dry and snap but they didnt, they feel rotted.

Can this tree be helped? Saved? I'm happy to provide any other details or pictures.

Here's some pictures I took


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MorpheusPA
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Re: Is this California Pepper Doomed?

Post by MorpheusPA » December 28th, 2021, 11:14 pm

I'd suggest a specialist in these trees (I'd also suggest going straight to an actual specialist if the tree is important to you rather than wasting time on any other forum because you're going to find a lot of people who will shoot at the answer without actually knowing crap unless somebody can give you a definitive answer offhand; I speak from frustrated experience and pointer-outer-of-bullcrappers here. If it's an easy-to-replace tree in your area, or not of great concern to you, then by all means).

One datum of note is the sheer age of the tree; at 25-30 years old, you're at the maximum normal age of the tree, which is around 30 years. It's a venerable tree that's now taken wind damage, and where a woodpecker's been hunting insects in the wood. Unless the woodpecker was building a nest or attracting a mate (it doesn't look like either), the tree was already stressed by the insects).

te tat do
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Re: Is this California Pepper Doomed?

Post by te tat do » December 29th, 2021, 11:34 pm

thanks for the advice. Do pepper trees really have a lifespan as mentioned? I had no idea

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Re: Is this California Pepper Doomed?

Post by MorpheusPA » December 30th, 2021, 1:42 pm

Unfortunately, yes, they're amongst the short-lived trees. It does vary, with lifespans from 30 to 150 years (I can't tell if that's an actual California Pepper [longer-lived] or the Brazilian Pepper as I'm not a practiced eye and don't have closeups of the leaves). If one next to it already died, it's not unlikely that this one is now suffering from the same problems.

Your local extension office should certainly be able to assist you directly in diagnosing and treating the tree, and they'll also be free or really, really cheap. Given the woodpecker, I do suspect an insect issue, and they're certainly subject to disease problems as well...

If it's any consolation, the eucalyptus it's next to should live another two hundred years...

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Re: Is this California Pepper Doomed?

Post by te tat do » December 30th, 2021, 2:46 pm

MorpheusPA wrote:
December 30th, 2021, 1:42 pm
Unfortunately, yes, they're amongst the short-lived trees. It does vary, with lifespans from 30 to 150 years (I can't tell if that's an actual California Pepper [longer-lived] or the Brazilian Pepper as I'm not a practiced eye and don't have closeups of the leaves). If one next to it already died, it's not unlikely that this one is now suffering from the same problems.

Your local extension office should certainly be able to assist you directly in diagnosing and treating the tree, and they'll also be free or really, really cheap. Given the woodpecker, I do suspect an insect issue, and they're certainly subject to disease problems as well...

If it's any consolation, the eucalyptus it's next to should live another two hundred years...
good to know, when you say extension office? Are you referring to a community college or something like that?

For sure the tree is a california pepper. I had 2 brazillian peppers in my front yard that died to Armarilla root root a few years ago, one sprouted a new tree from the root system and now now quite large but the other one never did.

Here's another pic of my tree from my bedroom window to give you an idea of what it looks like currently. You will see the eucalyptus sprouted a sucker/branch that runs through the pepper tree as well. I'm letting it grow.

Im so sad. I HATE losing trees...


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Re: Is this California Pepper Doomed?

Post by MorpheusPA » December 30th, 2021, 10:00 pm

Yikes, yeah, that's not looking fantastic, although I love the xeriscaping in your back yard. An extension office would be your County Horticultural Extension Office (usually through your local university) who will have people who will do work for cheap or free (you pay them with your taxes). You should be able to look that up on Google with "(Your County) California Horticultural Extension Office"

Mine's actually through Penn State University and about fifteen minutes from my house. They're infinitely helpful and inexpensive. Call ahead these days with Omicron raging to check on hours, accessibility, and so on. Samples will be required, along with good closeups and photos of any issues.

I have my suspicions, but I'm only guessing (Amarilla Root Rot again), and don't really know well how to slow or stop it. Let's let the experts help you out locally.

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Re: Is this California Pepper Doomed?

Post by te tat do » December 31st, 2021, 1:13 pm

Thanks for your help, I will look around for my local extension office for sure. What's weird is the tree has a bunch of suckers sprouting but the rest of it is dying back....

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Re: Is this California Pepper Doomed?

Post by MorpheusPA » January 2nd, 2022, 10:04 pm

Y'know, they sometimes do that when they're going down, or having problems in another part of the tree but one section is fine. You might-could cut one of those (use green wood, not where it's gone brown and hard), soak it in rooting hormone, and plant it in potting soil. If there's no fungal infection in the tree, it might be a nice daughter for somewhere.

Some trees and shrubs root easily. Most do not. But it's always a fun experiment and not expensive.

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