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Portuguese laurels and cankers

Hi All, looking for some advice on how to deal with disease that has crept in with our Portuguese laurels. A couple of the trees have always struggled so we added more organic material, drainage and removed some more clay from around them.

One of the trees now has a canker with orange/red sap coming from the main trunk.

What would be the best plan of action to deal with this? 


  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,289
    I think the condition of the soil is the problem. It looks completely saturated. Having a membrane and then a covering of slate right up to the trunk isn't great either. It doesn't encourage good root health. 
    All plants need oxygen for the roots to thrive, and I'd think that specimen has probably been suffering for a long while. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Thank s for your reply. The soil wasn’t great when first planted. We did have some adjacent drainage added to the lawn and while this was underway I mixed in a lot of organic material but the poor draining clay and rain seems to of reduced any efforts. I have five other trees all fine but this particular spot doesn’t seem to drain well. 

    What would be be the best course of action to help this tree out... Can it survive if I dig up and re- plant when it goes dormant or would it be best to cut my losses?
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,289
    I really can't advise on that. I don't grow these laurels, and most of the ones round here are just used for hedging. 
    It looks quite a large specimen, so it's unlikely to do well unless cut right back, and even then, if it's badly damaged, it's unlikely to thrive. 
    Someone else on the forum may be able to offer advice though  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Thanks again for you reply. I removed the slate and membrane earlier today and the ground doesn’t look too bad. It didn’t help it was raining badly in the first pictures. I am hoping letting it breath will help but really could do with knowing if I should attempt to remove some of the canker.
  • Hi - I am not an expert on canker, but I think it is caused by mechanical damage allowing the fungus to enter. The normal way to deal with it is to cut off infected branches. However, this doesn't help in your situation, given how low down on the trunk the damage is. I suspect all you can do is leave it, and see what happens. The damaged spot might heal? Moving it/replanting won't help, I wouldn't think.
  • Thanks for your reply. I think the only reason moving/re planting it came into my thoughts was due to the ground looking saturated in the first pictures, but it was wet day and raining at the time. The ground looked much better today so I think I will leave it for now and keep the membrane off for a while at least to see if that helps. I had disturbed the tree when we had drainage put into the lawn to try and help with moving surface water away from the roots into one of the French drains.

    I was thinking of maybe cutting it back to help it out, but would wait until next spring I think.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,289
    Even with heavy, prolonged rain, the ground shouldn't look like that round the base of a tree - especially an evergreen one with a good canopy, because the rain doesn't penetrate easily or quickly. 
    I think you'll need to improve the drainage quality of the soil enormously to ensure anything planted there would thrive. I'm not sure that will recover, and even lifting it and potting it up temporarily to give it a chance, might not help. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • JoeXJoeX Posts: 1,766
    I’m not sure there is anything you can do with certainty to help canker on the base of the trunk like that.

    As an aside though, are you sure this is a portuguese laurel?  The bark and sap are not the colour I would expect, for example.
  • I think the best option is to leave it for the time being and make sure the ground isn’t causing any issue. 

    They are definitely Portuguese laurels. The sap is red/orange due to the canker. Not sure what the usual sap colour would be.
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