Is this a disease?

Hi all,

i have a problem with a juniper which is on a downward spiral for months already. It started with browning tips which become hard and stay on the tree and now the branches start to brown backwards. I don’t find any scales or other bugs on the tree. The roots are not perfectly established but they are fine and don’t show any signs of fungus or anything. The first thing which comes in my mind is phomopsis but today i took a look at the foliage under the microscope and saw this on the dead branches:

As far as i know phomopsis forms black spots and no white spots. My question is now, is this a disease in any way or could it be something else like dried fungus spray which i sprayed a few days ago. I really have now clue what these small white balls are. You can not see them with your eyes, only under the microscope.
I hope anyone has an idea or elsei fear that the time of this tree will come to an end which would be very disappointing due to the fact that it is a beautiful small shohin starting refinement process.
Thank you for your help in advance

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Hi @SkeiL. Have you got a photo of the whole tree? It may give a better indication of what’s going on…

Hi @Keith-in-UK
This is the tree at the moment. As you can see not much green left. :frowning:

The issues already started last year and i didn’t work the tree in anyway but that didn’t help either.

Hi @SkeiL. When was the last repot?
Things to check are

  1. Is the watering routine correct - too much or too little?
  2. Have you looked at the roots? (Could be some nasty beasties eating them).
  3. Was the fungicide too strong for the tree or sprayed when in strong sunlight? What other treatments have you given it that may have affected it?
    You say it has been going downhill for a few months, was there anything you did prior to this that could have set it off?

To me (bearing in mind I’m only looking at photo so I may be totally wrong) it looks like a watering issue which usually causes the tips to brown first. Let me know what you think?

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Hi @Keith-in-UK

  1. Watering shouldn’t be the problem. I keep it very dry at the moment because of the small amount of living foliage. It could be that watering was a part of the problem last year when it was in the old soil.

  2. Because it was in the old soil in which i bought it, i repotted it this spring (i know, not the best idea when the tree is already suffering but i had to look at the roots). The only problem there was that the shin was fully potted in sand. So i nearly don’t have any roots below the tree but a good amount on the edges of the pot. The repotting was a simple slip repotting where i just tried to get out most of the sand below the tree and left everything else untouched.

  3. The fungicide shouldn’t be too strong. Already used it for other trees as well and haven’t had a problem so far. I always spray on a dry day and keep the tree in shade so i don’t think the spray is any issue.

Last year when the downward spiral started the tree got infected by scales too (after 1 month already in a bad state) but they were killed pretty fast and aren’t any issue anymore. I am worrying that the tree already took a step to far over the cliff and that it is simply slowly dying withouth any disease anymore but i want to try my best to get it back on track.
Another thing to mention: When you press the brown, dead foliage (like the ones in the microscope picture) you can see a colorless sap/liquid spoiling out but i am not sure if this is a hint to a fungus or anything else or simply normal that some sap is left inside. My knowledge and experience with fungus isn’t that great. My trees are all kept on a balcony and so i have more or less a dry clima and because of this more problems with bugs than with fungus.

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Was there a timeframe last summer… when the pot got overheated (on a balcony), then watered. Could have fried the roots. I’ve lost several trees to this. Don’t see the problem until next mid-summer. Tree slowly receeds,
curls up and dies…
It gets relatively hot here. 100F and 15% humidity. I’ve lost several trees to this problem.
I keep a thermometer in one pot. When pot temps hit 90F+ (I’ve seen 103) AND the forcast is temps in the 90s, I put up a 70% shade cloth and move all suseptable trees into shade.

This could be indeed the potential reason. Due to the fact of a minimal amount of nature around my balcony, temperaturs between 90 and 100F are easily possible during the summer. I put up a shade cloth as well but i haven’t put the juniper behind because i thought it wouldn’t need it. Damn it.
And you never were lucky and rescued a tree after this?

I think @KurtP has found the problem for you.
Kurt did you manage to bring any back to health or were they terminal?

If any of the roots survived, pot center or back, the tree will receded until it can support what’s left. Carefully cut back along the outer twigs and limbs. Flex or snap off to see if they are dead. If you see green under the bark, you went too far.
Dont give up on the main trunk untill NEXT summer. It will take that long for the base to dry up, or new shoots to pop on the main trunk.
My sister left a $95 nice juniper mallsai(…) inside in her South facing window all summer. Wanted me to fix it. I took the tree out of the pot and handed the pot back. She is still mad…
Yours LOOKS like a Western juniper. They are genetically predisposed to survive hot and dry climates. Give it time. Don’t keep the pot wet, just damp. Keep in moderate shade, morning sun.
Bonsai On!


When I have plants like this they go straight onto the ground in semi shade. I mist the foliage and only water when they need it.

Thanks all,
that’s the way i treat it at the moment. Just a few hours morning sun and very minimal watering. Thanks for giving me hope again. We will see what happens. So far there is no new growth unfortunately but the inner foliage seems able to keep the green color. I keep you updated.