Hinoki Cypress Troubles

Ilona Erwin

For years these favorite slow growing trees had given me no trouble,  only delight. That changed in the aftermath of one of the worst winters in memory.

I am not sure of the exact what or why, yet; but my oldest Chamaecyparis obtusa died from halfway up. Today, I finally removed that dead portion. I had been waiting for some dry days in which to do the job of cutting off the top of my most valued dwarf evergreen, because I suspect that it is a fungal infection that has taken its toll. If I don’t remove the dead portion, I think there will be no chance to save the tree.

Previously, there had been two Japanese cut-leaf maples nearby, both of which died mysteriously. They look healthy, although one had a large branch that had wilted and died. I had delayed removing it, and I think this is what may have given problems a foothold in my garden.

But again, I am unsure.

How Did This Happen?

dead foliage of hinoki

Dead foliage on the Hinoki Cypress

I am not sure how it all happened, actually, but I do know that all through the summer the shrub seemed to be healthy and normal. After returning from a prolonged family trip in September, I returned to find that upper part of the evergreen was a deathly gray color. Going out to inspect it, more than just the foliage had died, the twigs also were dried and without life.

I had only recently discovered my Japanese maples, which had leafed out and looked fine, had wilted and then completely died. They had exhibited the same symptoms. One I had removed, using a disinfectant for the tool, the other left standing. All these Japanese native plants are in the same protected part of my yard.

Last years brutal winter, I believe, had weakened them, but I am unsure how the disease was introduced.

What I do know is that my most valuable dwarf trees are either gone or highly vulnerable to loss.

Using the symptoms as a search term I came up with a few educated guesses to the problem and the probable solution.

1st Guess

Juniper Tip Blight of some kind. The blights that hit Junipers also hit Hinoki cypresses, so this article on Phomopsis and Kabatina shed some light on the situation.

Whatever it is, it acts like a blight. Removing the dead and diseased part of the plant down to living parts seemed to be the only answer and my dwarf evergreen, the pride of my front garden, is now terribly deformed. I only hope it lives through the coming year. At that point I will see if I can help it to recover its form.

This has been a bad year of losses for my garden. I am trying to parse out what the contributing problems have been. Using mulch that may have harbored disease? The terrible winter we had? Introduction of unhealthy plants?

I will need to solve this conundrum, but at any rate, wherever the problem arose, no more of the vulnerable plants can be replanted in these areas.

I can no longer say that Chamaecyparis obtusa is without problems.


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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.