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SOLVED: What is this tree, and what is happening to it??

Melbourne, VIC, Australia(Zone 9b)

Hi guys. So I have this fruit tree in my backyard that I've pretty much let grow wild and free for years. Recently it's been the victim of something devouring the leaves voraciously. The fruit doesn't appear to be affected though I haven't had a close look. Every year the tree flourishes green, then slowly gets munched back until about 80% of its leaves are brown and dead. Then the remaining green branches put out a couple of these yellow/red fruits that look like little plums. What I'd love to do is get rid of the pests destroying the tree, give it a little nourishment, cut it back a bit and see if I can get a fruit yield next summer. Can anybody help tell me both what sort of fruit this is, what sort of pest is eating it, and what I can do to fix the problem? Thanks!

- Karl

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Northern California, CA(Zone 9b)

It would be great to take close photos of the fruit, the partly eaten leaves, and the brown leaves as well as the healthy leaves on a branch.

Have you eaten the fruit? Some can be poisonous so make sure of your ID before you try it. Example - Acokanthera oppositifolia (I do not think it grows in Australia) has similar looking fruit that looks like a plum that is very poisonous.

I wonder if you have a disease causing the dead leaves and not insects. Getting a photo before they die might be helpful.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Agree with Kell, especially when you've posted a couple repeat images in your first post.

Cut a decent branch off - maybe a meter's worth - that has old leaves, new green growth, and fruit on it. Then, take it somewhere you can photo it closely to show the details of what is going on. Tops and bottoms of foliage is helpful.

Melbourne, VIC, Australia(Zone 9b)

Apologies for the terrible photos, my lawn is waist-high at the moment so the best I could do was take snaps with my phone camera from the porch. Should be able to mow tomorrow so I'll take your advise and get some closer photos of the foliage (both dead and alive) and the fruit.

And no, I haven't eaten the fruit, and won't until I get a quite certain ID. =)

Thanks for replying!

Melbourne, VIC, Australia(Zone 9b)

Thanks for your patience guys. Here are some MUCH better photos, clearly showing the healthy(ish) leaves, the desiccated leaves, and some of the fruit. Would love to hear your thoughts and feedback! There were no clear bugs or critters on the plants so I'm thinking Kell might be right about a disease! Cheers!

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Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Sure looks like something like Prunus sp., or related genus - a member of Rosaceae family of plants. Unfortunately, I'm not that well acquainted with what choices are available down under in Melbourne. Cut open or macerate some of the fruit, and see what kind of seed is inside. The morphology of that plant part can often help narrow the field for ID.

You could very well have some kind of foliar disease AS WELL AS insect damage on those leaves. I can see what looks like the pinpricks of a piercing/sucking insect, as well as those areas of leaf degradation more indicative of disease. Unfortunately for home gardener, Rosaceae members are the candy store of species for a plethora of pathogens.

Look forward to seeing what's in the fruit (show process pictures of your examination), and having more Southern Hemisphere-fluent eyes on your prize.

NYC, NY(Zone 7a)

That's a plum tree -- likely Prunus salicina.... The damage is due to moderate drought. The types of summers experienced in AUS significantly impact Prunus sp. which need significantly more water when the heat cranks up on them. One year of such misery won't necessarily kill a mature tree, but it will impact fruit production.... More than one year in a row of such conditions are likely to kill off a tree that is clearly stressed by the such dry heat. It's the drawback to growing non-native flora.... You can try mulching with real rather than synthetic mulch, but that can create its own problems for trees already prone to disease & pest problems.

Northern California, CA(Zone 9b)

Sounds like Fizgig knows!

I just wanted to add when I had a problem I could not identify whether it be insect damage or disease, I would take a good specimen of it in a plastic bag and take it my local nursery, in your case a nursery that sold fruit trees and usually they can help with an ID.

Good luck!

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