The sickly katsuras, two months later

Time passes and I revisit the katsura trees. Thank you to David and Nadia for their comments about the similar sounding symptoms they’ve had. I’m none the wiser, sadly! According to Strouts & Winter frost damage from late or spring frosts can account for problems particularly on thin, vulnerable stems. That would fit, I suppose, except only one of my sapling katsuras was affected, the other, almost identical one, seems unaffected.

The only other katsura trees I know about locally are at Houghall Arboretum and Durham Botanic Gardens. I haven’t visited the botanic garden recently but the Houghall trees look fine.

But a closer examination of my own sickly katsura held a surprise. Scratching the bark in several places with my fingernail showed a bright green sapwood underneath. Next spring should be interesting.

I’ve uploaded some fairly large images (click on the thumbnails below) of the living and (apparently not so) dead trees, and full size images can be found in my fell and forest gallery.


The Katsura Tree

As the title of this blog might suggest, I have a particular fondness for the Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). I have three in the garden, all youngsters. One is getting on for 2 or 3 metres tall, has been in for a few years (planted Nov 2007), and is looking good.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum
Healthy tree

Around the corner in the front garden there are a couple of tiny trees that I snapped up for a fiver each from Dawyck a couple of years ago. They are about 3 or 4 metres apart and have been absolutely fine since the day they were put in. I occasionally mulch with grass clippings or clear encroaching roses or beech from them, but all, in all, they’ve seemed happy.

But something has happened recently. The one on the right (click for a bigger picture) looks pretty healthy. Not a big tree but happy enough.


And then I walk about 3 metres along the flower bed to the next one. And it doesn’t look well at all.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum
Not a healthy tree

The mush you can see around the base is old grass clippings (no fertiliser, or weed and feed), and it is kept away from the base of the sapling. Same for the healthy one.

A closer look at the leaves shows them brown and mostly dead.

So, what is wrong with this picture? Why is one alive and apparently healthy, and one is dead, or nearly so? They are only a few metres apart and have no visible differences in light, soil or moisture.

Distracted by a pheasant’s back

I frequently drive through Brancepeth on my way to Low Barns and recently I’ve been watching with fascination the unfolding drama of this bracket fungus. This is Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus), also known as Pheasant’s Back Mushroom, presumably due to the distinctive surface of the top of the fungus that you can’t see in this photo. It’s fruiting from a pruning wound on a sycamore tree (Acer pseudoplatanus) next to the main road in Brancepeth.

Dryad's Saddle or Pheasant Back Mushroom on a sycamore in Brancepeth
Dryad's Saddle on a Sycamore


I’m passing this tree and fungus almost daily and watching with wonder to see if it’s just going to get bigger and bigger. Who knows, one morning I may drive by and discover it’s gone. Disappearing as suddenly and mysteriously as it arrived.