Purple sand cherry tree


I live in Mississauga and have a fifteen-year-0ld sand cherry tree in my front yard. In the spring and summer of this year, it started to ooze a clear liquid along the entire length of its branches that solidified into hard crystals. It has killed some of the branches while the others have very few leaves and look very sad. Is there a way to save the tree?


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners regarding your purple-leaf sand cherry tree (Prunus x cistena). The clear liquid ooze you observed in spring / summer is likely sap that is leaking from wounds typically caused by an injury, pest or disease.  Even sun scald or frost injury can cause these injuries.  This condition is called gummosis and is described here.  If the ooze was completely clear, it is more likely to be caused buy a fungus or bacterial disease. Mechanical or insect injury can lead to sawdust or bark shards in the ooze.  Closely examine the branches and see if you can identify cankers or other signs of injury. Cankers begin as depressed areas in the wood and can progress to swollen areas on branches. Sand cherry trees are susceptible to several diseases including fire blight (a bacteria) and cytospora (a fungus also called leucostoma).  Cankers caused by fungus may have evidence of their fruiting bodies on the stems and trunk.  You can find more information here.  Fire blight causes blooms to wilt and leaves, stems or shoots to wilt and turn black – as if singed by fire.  You can read more about Fire Blight here.

Whatever the cause, your next step will be to remove diseased / dead branches carefully so as not to spread disease from one area of the tree to another.  If you do this yourself use good cutting / pruning technique and disinfect your pruners between each cut (10% bleach solution or disinfectant wipes work well).  Clean up and dispose of all the diseased material in municipal waste – don’t put it in your compost.  If the tree is too large or there is a lot of material to be removed you can find a local arborist through Landscape Ontario to help with the job.

Moving forward continue to provide optimal conditions for your tree including adequate light, regular watering and care to precent mechanical injury from lawn mowers or string trimmers.  You can use a balanced organic fertilizer or application of compost at the base of the tree in the spring. Purple-leaf sand cherry trees are susceptible to pests and diseases and commonly have a life-span of 10-15 years, so your tree has done well.  Best of luck with your tree moving forward!