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Fielding Questions: Apricot tree isn’t bearing; can the sex of tree be the problem?

Don Kinzler

Q: How can you tell the sex of a fruit tree? The first year my parents had their apricot trees, they bore fruit. Over the winter, one of the trees died. We replaced it, but the tree has not borne fruit since. – Linda Burns, Fargo

A: Interesting question! It is often said that two fruit trees are needed for production, but it’s not because there are separate male and female trees.

Flowering in plants is a fascinating study. Some species, such as ash trees, do have separate male and female trees, and modern varieties are all male, to avoid the clumps of seeds produced on females. Squash plants also have separate male and female flowers, yet they are contained on the same plant.

Every flower on a fruit tree contains both male and female parts within the same flower. But many fruit types require pollen from a different named variety of the same type to set fruit. That’s why you hear that two are needed.

Although some apricot varieties will set some fruit on their own, two different varieties are best for cross-pollination. It will be a guess to replace your parents’ apricot, without knowing the variety of the living tree.

Apricots for our area include the old Moongold and Sungold, plus newer Harcot and Westcot from Canada. Because apricots bloom very early, flowers are often frost-damaged, and fruit production is sometimes one year out of five.

Q: We planted an oak tree last August, and it appears dead but has some shoots growing from the bottom. Is it for sure dead, or could it come back next year? We followed instructions, so we are not sure what went wrong. – Laura Pladson, Fargo

A: From the photo you sent, the top is dead for sure. The sprouts from the base seem to indicate that it was winter-injured back to the roots, which have now started to regrow.

To be sure the top is dead, scratch the bark and branches with your thumbnail. A greenish layer immediately under the brown/gray outer bark indicates life within. If that cambium layer is brown and branches are brittle, that part is dead.

Replacement of the oak tree is your best option. The dieback was probably due to injury from the recent severe winter. Remember that oak trees do not like “wet feet,” which can also cause damage. Locally owned garden centers are your best choice for oaks adapted to our region.

Q: The attached photo is a rose bush that I’ve had for three years. Is the damage from a bug, and do I need to treat with a spray of some type? – Nicolle Aukland, Fargo

A: The photo shows rose leaf damage depicted by numerous smallish silver-tan irregular spots on the otherwise green leaves, plus holes. This is caused by pear slugs, which are slimy snails-without-a-shell about ½-inch long.

They rasp away the green pigment layer on leaves, causing thin, tan spots that eventually drop out, causing the holes. Besides roses, they attack pear trees and cherries. Control with Sevin, malathion or insecticidal soap. Pear slug, also known as pear sawfly, has a limited feeding span, which should soon be over.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city, and state for appropriate advice.