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I think something is wrong with my Psedobombax ellipticum (Shaving Brush Tree)


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I have a mature Psedobombax ellipticum (Shaving Brush Tree) over 35' tall.

Every year it drops it's leaves late January early February, then flowers in early March, with new leaves coming in early April.  By late April all the leaves should be back.

This year, it dropped all it's leaves in late January early February, bloomed in March as usual, then no new leaves at all, and it's already into May.  In other words, it has been a month overdue for new leaves, and I have not seen one leaf yet.

IMG_20230507_171421.jpg.66340ed8d4e3cb69da9735895714825f.jpg

I climbed up to the roof to have a better look, and I noticed many new buds, but again not a single leaf.  The new buds, most of them, have a pale white color secretion.  I don't know if this is normal, as I haven't examined one close up before.

IMG_20230507_171020.jpg.9e12907f12c0893f1adbb08088851bdd.jpg

IMG_20230507_171036.jpg.874aa1c76bb30adc73671c2457f1baaf.jpg

Any idea what might be going on?  Is the tree in trouble?

Thinking back, I can recall three events that may be stressing the tree, but I don't know if they are related to what is happening.

(1) In late December early January, we had two cold front that came through South Florida, that went down to the low 30s.

(2) On April 12, 2023, we had a historic rain event, 26" of rain fell within 6 hours in my area, the river (brackish water) next to me rose up and joined the flood from the rain, and flooded many properties.  The water mark left on my fences is 22" above grade.  I had 20" of water inside my garage.  I don't know if this brackish water with fresh rain mixture may have caused a problem to the tree, but my palms, crotons, gingers, ficus trees, and other much smaller plants showed no sign of any issue.

(3) I have a fish pond 25' from the shaving brush tree.  I drained this pond back in October 2022 to make repairs to the plumbing and pedestrian bridge.  Once I drained this pond, I noticed the shaving brush tree has two roots that went into the pond.  These two roots were  about 3 inches in diameter each, I cut these roots back away from the pond, which cut off it's access the water and nutrients in the pond.

Any idea what may be causing the tree not pushing new leaves?  Is the white color secretion on the buds normal?  Anything else I can do to diagnose further, fertilize, water it (I have never had to water this tree) or just wait a bit longer?

 

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55 minutes ago, miamicuse said:

I have a mature Psedobombax ellipticum (Shaving Brush Tree) over 35' tall.

Every year it drops it's leaves late January early February, then flowers in early March, with new leaves coming in early April.  By late April all the leaves should be back.

This year, it dropped all it's leaves in late January early February, bloomed in March as usual, then no new leaves at all, and it's already into May.  In other words, it has been a month overdue for new leaves, and I have not seen one leaf yet.

IMG_20230507_171421.jpg.66340ed8d4e3cb69da9735895714825f.jpg

I climbed up to the roof to have a better look, and I noticed many new buds, but again not a single leaf.  The new buds, most of them, have a pale white color secretion.  I don't know if this is normal, as I haven't examined one close up before.

IMG_20230507_171020.jpg.9e12907f12c0893f1adbb08088851bdd.jpg

IMG_20230507_171036.jpg.874aa1c76bb30adc73671c2457f1baaf.jpg

Any idea what might be going on?  Is the tree in trouble?

Thinking back, I can recall three events that may be stressing the tree, but I don't know if they are related to what is happening.

(1) In late December early January, we had two cold front that came through South Florida, that went down to the low 30s.

(2) On April 12, 2023, we had a historic rain event, 26" of rain fell within 6 hours in my area, the river (brackish water) next to me rose up and joined the flood from the rain, and flooded many properties.  The water mark left on my fences is 22" above grade.  I had 20" of water inside my garage.  I don't know if this brackish water with fresh rain mixture may have caused a problem to the tree, but my palms, crotons, gingers, ficus trees, and other much smaller plants showed no sign of any issue.

(3) I have a fish pond 25' from the shaving brush tree.  I drained this pond back in October 2022 to make repairs to the plumbing and pedestrian bridge.  Once I drained this pond, I noticed the shaving brush tree has two roots that went into the pond.  These two roots were  about 3 inches in diameter each, I cut these roots back away from the pond, which cut off it's access the water and nutrients in the pond.

Any idea what may be causing the tree not pushing new leaves?  Is the white color secretion on the buds normal?  Anything else I can do to diagnose further, fertilize, water it (I have never had to water this tree) or just wait a bit longer?

 

A couple days where morning temps. start off in the lower 30s shouldn't bother these.. Would already be outgrowing any damage at this point, and wouldn't have flowered..  Tips at the top of my white one in a pot got nipped a little this past winter, but is quickly growing past that minor burn atm.

Cutting a few roots that are 3" dia., compared to the ..likely extensive root system these have shouldn't faze the tree much, if at all either.

The inundation of brackish water is interesting ..but i'd think ..unless they sat underwater for several days,  Sitting under water for a few hours shouldn't effect them.. Could come down to the salt content of the water but like you mention, nothing else, which could be salt- sensitive, is showing signs of damage caused by salt water..

Would watch what it does for sure cuz something does seem off..

 

Edited by Silas_Sancona
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That white exudate is very strange...but the tree behaves differently under different conditions, it is not a strictly seasonal tree (at least not based on sunlight). When I was living in the Keys, I would always notice a very large tree (Eaton St. at Gecko Lane) in Old Town Key West that would burst into bloom around February/March...not sure when the leaves would come, but if you look at the Google Maps street view of that tree, photographed in April 2019, it had just a very few new leaves emerging on an otherwise completely bare tree.

I am now in the Palm Springs area, the low Sonoran Desert, and I have both pink and white Pseudobombax planted out. We had a horribly long, cold fall/winter...bottomed out at 33.4F this year. There was no damage to my plants, which range from seedling size to a large rooted branch cutting (obtained from Hawai'i), and in fact they were very slow to shed their leaves, the cold didn't seem to bother them one bit. But there is just one bud on the pink tree that has been slowly developing, it is almost at the "acorn"-looking stage, but is being very slow about it. Meanwhile the young white-flowered plants just started putting out their first leaves last week. The pink one has zero movement on the leaves, just the one flower-bud. We have had a couple of 100-degree heat-waves, temps the last week have been mostly low 80s (unusually cool), and I have been watering all of them basically every day in our very sandy soil, trying to get them to wake up. But if you think about their origin, which ranges from Sonora down along the west coast of Mexico, they are highly seasonal based on the beginning of the rainy season (as is virtually all vegetation in that zone). And I think that once the tree recognizes a combination of long days, sufficient water, and maybe some other combination of events, it will get back into gear. But it is not in its best interest to "jump the gun" in case there are early rains and then drought. So I would say, scratch the cambium to make sure it is nice and green (this indicates the stem you are scratching is alive) and then just be patient a little longer. You might want to scope out some other trees in your area (maybe Fairchild), but I wouldn't panic just yet.

Also, regarding saltwater inundation, there is a large tree on Big Pine Key a block or so from our previous house...this tree is two houses away from open water and Hurricane Irma gave it seven feet of saltwater for a full day, large waves, 160+ mph winds, tornados, etc., and that tree was untouched. It is perfectly healthy. I was actually quite shocked how resilient that species is after such a tremendous storm. While there may be something to do with your cutting those roots, I wouldn't worry about the brackish water it experienced.

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Michael Norell

Rancho Mirage, California | 33°44' N 116°25' W | 293 ft | z10a | avg Jan 44/70F | Jul 78/108F avg | Weather Station KCARANCH310

previously Big Pine Key, Florida | 24°40' N 81°21' W | 4.5 ft. | z12a | Calcareous substrate | avg annual min. approx 52F | avg Jan 65/75F | Jul 83/90 | extreme min approx 41F

previously Natchez, Mississippi | 31°33' N 91°24' W | 220 ft.| z9a | Downtown/river-adjacent | Loess substrate | avg annual min. 23F | Jan 43/61F | Jul 73/93F | extreme min 2.5F (1899)

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I rubbed off the white stuff from the bud, it's not very viscous, kind of a consistency of a toothpaste, and it's not sticky, no odor to it.

I will scratch the cambium tomorrow to see what's going on there and take some pictures if possible.

The salt in the water, I don't think it is anything close to ocean salt water because it's from a river a few miles from the ocean, and when we have king tides the river rises up into the streets.  I do know the ducks that hangs out in the neighborhood drinks from puddles of the rain water, but I have never seen them drink from the river.  When I water my plants they will crowd around me to drink from the pooling water, when the river is 20 feet away.

We did have a drought, no rain for a long time this winter/spring.  Then suddenly it dropped 26" in six hours, then rained a bit more the next two weeks.  May be it's the drought.

Here is a picture of it on March 15, still in full bloom then.  All the flowers dropped off by late March and usually the leaves follow very quickly, yet this year no leaf yet.

bloom315.jpg.871b9e8e0631e664187ad45aacb63a48.jpg

 

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10 hours ago, miamicuse said:

I rubbed off the white stuff from the bud, it's not very viscous, kind of a consistency of a toothpaste, and it's not sticky, no odor to it.

I will scratch the cambium tomorrow to see what's going on there and take some pictures if possible.

The salt in the water, I don't think it is anything close to ocean salt water because it's from a river a few miles from the ocean, and when we have king tides the river rises up into the streets.  I do know the ducks that hangs out in the neighborhood drinks from puddles of the rain water, but I have never seen them drink from the river.  When I water my plants they will crowd around me to drink from the pooling water, when the river is 20 feet away.

We did have a drought, no rain for a long time this winter/spring.  Then suddenly it dropped 26" in six hours, then rained a bit more the next two weeks.  May be it's the drought.

Here is a picture of it on March 15, still in full bloom then.  All the flowers dropped off by late March and usually the leaves follow very quickly, yet this year no leaf yet.

bloom315.jpg.871b9e8e0631e664187ad45aacb63a48.jpg

 

These are native to areas of Southern Mexico / Cen. America  where they see 6-8 or 9 months of absolute drought so i doubt the "blip on the radar dry spell" there is the reason for what you're experiencing. Wouldn't have flowered if effected adversely by prolonged drought either. Not until after a few good soaking rainfall events which would awaken the tree.

Their " succulent-trunked" form is an obvious clue that seasonal drought conditions don't typically adversely effect them much.

If you flooding effects from King Tides are enough to put your street(s) underwater, you're close enough to the Ocean that salt levels in your water could be high ..though not nearly as high compared to being a few blocks from the Sea..  The tree would have to sit in deep water for several days / a week + to be negatively effected though..

Eliminating other possibilities, did you use any kind of chemical  -anything-  near it when cleaning out your pond?? 

Discharge from the branch tips could be excess sap ..some trees do this before they leaf out, but that would've been something you'd have noticed each year.. Don't remember any specimens i'd seen there doing the same thing.  Just as possible i didn't notice something like that either too..

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  • 2 weeks later...

Finally I see some leaves emerging.  This is over a month late, normally by mid April the tree is full of leaves.

IMG_20230517_134342.jpg.28b074fe31b5d50f73a8ebc406297f10.jpg

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59 minutes ago, miamicuse said:

Finally I see some leaves emerging.  This is over a month late, normally by mid April the tree is full of leaves.

IMG_20230517_134342.jpg.28b074fe31b5d50f73a8ebc406297f10.jpg

I have one that's a few years old, in a pot I overwinter indoors. The buds on the tips of each branch are barely enlarging. Seems late this year, but then I live in NorCal!

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On 5/18/2023 at 3:40 PM, Hillizard said:

I have one that's a few years old, in a pot I overwinter indoors. The buds on the tips of each branch are barely enlarging. Seems late this year, but then I live in NorCal!

Definitely late, even in south Florida where I am, but there is a similar tree not too far from me, just a few miles in land, except that tree has white flowers and mine has pink flowers, and that tree has fully developed leaves a month ago, and that got me worried. 

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Posted (edited)

On Tuesday, no leaf at all.

On Thursday, a few emerged - in the picture above.

Then this afternoon I got home at dusk, BOOMMMMMM...that much in one day.

IMG_20230519_200936.jpg.ea803aaae0dc84e17757d594589cde10.jpg

The only thing I can think of was that heavy rain on Monday.  What that white gluey stuff was on the tip of the branches?  No idea, may be something they had to expel after the historic flood?

Edited by miamicuse
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I have 3 or 4 of them in the collection and only one of them has leafed out as expected thus far this year. The others have bloomed and budded, but thus far very little on the leaf front.

I'm not particularly worried as they are a bit temperamental, to say the least

Richard

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6 hours ago, GDLWyverex said:

I have 3 or 4 of them in the collection and only one of them has leafed out as expected thus far this year. The others have bloomed and budded, but thus far very little on the leaf front.

I'm not particularly worried as they are a bit temperamental, to say the least

Richard

I am not worried now but I was a few weeks ago because it was so "puntual" in years' past when it bloom and leaf out.  Then the white residue at the tip of every branch didn't help.

But this week I see big changes every day which is amazing.  Something definitely delayed it but it went past it now.  Today more leaves!

IMG_20230520_122647.jpg.2071b79020a9cb780cbff085367e72c1.jpg

IMG_20230520_122720.jpg.7564e07c7676a7c2d50eae5572c02439.jpg

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Well, I did get up on the roof to talk to it, touching it here and there, wondering if it's okay, may be it's my sweet talking LOL.

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27 minutes ago, miamicuse said:

Well, I did get up on the roof to talk to it, touching it here and there, wondering if it's okay, may be it's my sweet talking LOL.

I have KDFC 24 hour classical radio, over the Internet, without commercial interuption playing day in and day out in the garden which seems to keep my 2 pigs, the herd of guinea pigs as well as the plants complacent.

 

Richard

Edited by GDLWyverex
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On 5/19/2023 at 11:19 PM, miamicuse said:

Definitely late, even in south Florida where I am, but there is a similar tree not too far from me, just a few miles in land, except that tree has white flowers and mine has pink flowers, and that tree has fully developed leaves a month ago, and that got me worried. 

Mine is also the pink flowered variety of Pseudobombax! Perhaps the white variety is less sensitive to seasonal variability?

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2 hours ago, Hillizard said:

Mine is also the pink flowered variety of Pseudobombax! Perhaps the white variety is less sensitive to seasonal variability?

White definitely seems less sensitive.. Mine got nipped, but leafed out on it's usual " as soon as it reached 90F for a few days " schedule.

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My white-flowered specimens (which are all young, and were raised from seed), have been flushing their leaves for the last 2-3 weeks now, but my pink-flowered specimen (from a large branch-cutting or air-layer) has mostly refused to awaken...except that over the last week, the single bud has been steadily elongating and yesterday morning I was treated to the gorgeous inflorescence pictured below. It is sad they are so fleeting, lasting but a day. The branch-tips have also shed their brown protective scales over the last weeks and I think it will be very quick now that there will be some leaf activity. I don't know whether the difference in leaf-development is due to pink-vs-white, or seedling (i.e., no sexual maturity so go ahead and throw your leaves!) vs. a mature branch that is concerned with reproduction rather than quick leaf-production.

image.thumb.jpeg.49d16890556d1aebf269a3a2d0ef13ac.jpeg

Branch-tips on this pink specimen as of yesterday morning:

image.thumb.jpeg.c2dd3433b78faa5b8d3b48487abb152c.jpeg

Leaf progress on the white seedlings after 2-3 weeks of development:image.thumb.jpeg.1e83809e83b3b71203bd86295916bbd2.jpeg

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Michael Norell

Rancho Mirage, California | 33°44' N 116°25' W | 293 ft | z10a | avg Jan 44/70F | Jul 78/108F avg | Weather Station KCARANCH310

previously Big Pine Key, Florida | 24°40' N 81°21' W | 4.5 ft. | z12a | Calcareous substrate | avg annual min. approx 52F | avg Jan 65/75F | Jul 83/90 | extreme min approx 41F

previously Natchez, Mississippi | 31°33' N 91°24' W | 220 ft.| z9a | Downtown/river-adjacent | Loess substrate | avg annual min. 23F | Jan 43/61F | Jul 73/93F | extreme min 2.5F (1899)

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2 hours ago, mnorell said:

My white-flowered specimens (which are all young, and were raised from seed), have been flushing their leaves for the last 2-3 weeks now, but my pink-flowered specimen (from a large branch-cutting or air-layer) has mostly refused to awaken...except that over the last week, the single bud has been steadily elongating and yesterday morning I was treated to the gorgeous inflorescence pictured below. It is sad they are so fleeting, lasting but a day. The branch-tips have also shed their brown protective scales over the last weeks and I think it will be very quick now that there will be some leaf activity. I don't know whether the difference in leaf-development is due to pink-vs-white, or seedling (i.e., no sexual maturity so go ahead and throw your leaves!) vs. a mature branch that is concerned with reproduction rather than quick leaf-production.

image.thumb.jpeg.49d16890556d1aebf269a3a2d0ef13ac.jpeg

Branch-tips on this pink specimen as of yesterday morning:

image.thumb.jpeg.c2dd3433b78faa5b8d3b48487abb152c.jpeg

Leaf progress on the white seedlings after 2-3 weeks of development:image.thumb.jpeg.1e83809e83b3b71203bd86295916bbd2.jpeg

Wow, your tree blooms so late in the year.  My bloom happened in February, and every day so much flowers drop I just pick them up with a wheel barrow.  I usually end up with about two cubic yards of flowers that I use as pink mulch during that time.


Do you see any white viscous secretion at the tip of the new branches?  That's what got me concerned but even 2 months late now I am having new red leaves all over.

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I didn’t see any secretion. And I think the phenology of this species is just arcane to us and is controlled by subtle changes that may be beneath our radar. But the fact that yours in your low-elevation tropical climate was so late leafing out as well as Richard’s in Guadalajara ( which is a high-elevation “tierra templada” area) and mine and Nathan’s in our slightly different areas of the Sonoran desert (with Nathan’s sounding like the first to leaf out)…we had a very anomalous cold season out here in California, long and very chilly for months on end, and this made most blooms start about a month late in the Palm Springs area. So I think the answer is not to worry too much about any of it, as this is a very hardy beast of a tree and apparently just wants to decide how and when to do its thing. It does come from a “hard knocks” climate-regime to begin with, so no doubt has learned its own ways to manage adversity. 

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Michael Norell

Rancho Mirage, California | 33°44' N 116°25' W | 293 ft | z10a | avg Jan 44/70F | Jul 78/108F avg | Weather Station KCARANCH310

previously Big Pine Key, Florida | 24°40' N 81°21' W | 4.5 ft. | z12a | Calcareous substrate | avg annual min. approx 52F | avg Jan 65/75F | Jul 83/90 | extreme min approx 41F

previously Natchez, Mississippi | 31°33' N 91°24' W | 220 ft.| z9a | Downtown/river-adjacent | Loess substrate | avg annual min. 23F | Jan 43/61F | Jul 73/93F | extreme min 2.5F (1899)

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Short vid of a pink specimen at Aloes In Wonderland:
 

 

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