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Magnolia Grandiflora problem?

Hoping this finds you all well.

I wondered whether you would be able to advise me regarding a problem that has arisen with a sixty year old specimen in my friend`s garden.

For the first time this year the entire shrub is covered with yellow leaves and looks very unwell. This is much more than the usual leaf drop, in fact non of the leaves have fallen yet, and it appears to be affecting both sides of the leaf.

Also the bottom of the trunk appears to be peeling away and splitting although there is no sign of fungi or insect attack.

I have attached a couple of photos which illustrate the problems.

Any help or advice you can give would be appreciated as losing the specimen after all these years would be tragic.

We live in Surrey in the UK.

Thank you.

With best wishes,




  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,360
    I can't see the bark splitting or peeling so others may have a comment on that. It could be water-stress. It's been pretty dry last year and this year, apart from the early part, has been again dry again. I would look into getting the base watered well now if you have never watered it. Then continue to water it well through the summer. 
  • Hello Borderline,
    Thank you for your helpful suggestion.
  • steephillsteephill Posts: 1,789
    The damage to the bark looks severe to me, more than half of it has gone at the base. Does the damage extend round the other side?
  • Hello Steephill,
    Thank you for your reply, yes the damage does extend all the way round the circumference of the trunk.
  • steephillsteephill Posts: 1,789
    Unfortunately that means it is likely to die soon. It has effectively been ring-barked by some disease or infection. I don't think there is anything which can be done to save it.
  • Disappointing but understandable. Thanks for taking the time to reply. Best wishes.
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 10,522
    Is it possible that the soil was raised at the base of the tree at some point in the past?  Most trees will die and the damage will look similar to your photo if that happens.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,360
    I have just noticed the base damage. But do not give up on it yet. Continue to water the shrub/tree. Only then will you know what is the issue. The placement of the plant is not ideal, and in my opinion would be an issue as it matures further. It's just too close to a boundary. 
  • Thank you Bob the Gardener and Borderline,
    The trunk has never been covered with soil to my knowledge. Could it be rabbits gnawing at the base of the trunk?
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 10,522
    I think it's more likely a root disease, such as phytophthora:
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
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