Can this old apple be saved?

A good friend has a very old Wealthy that broke up this week, five-six weeks until he’ll want to harvest them. Here are some questions and some pictures:

In the first pictures you can see the break. The first question is as to whether the apples on that broken off part still have a chance of ripening. And the second question is as to just how salvageable is the rest of that trunk. And in the third photo you can see the whole tree. That broken off part is the left side of the tree.

He has already decided to start a new tree on a semi dwarf root stock, but he’s just reluctant to remove this tree if there is any way around it. So the final question is what is the best way to prune below that break to try to salvage that part of the tree.

Thanks all.


I had a peach tree break a major scaffold this June about a week before the peaches ripened. I left them on the branch, they did sort of ripen but did not plump up like a peach should. Apples could be completely different…


Some healthy small limbs below the break indicate good odds of cutting tree with a saw and shoots re-generating to a full sized tree again.
Apples will probably ripen, but growth may be smaller, so long as the broken part doesn’t get worse.


That’s kind of the way I’m seeing it. I can see how both the left side of the tree and the right can each be good for quite a while to come. My own inclination is that just taking the left side down completely would really allow the right side to come into its own, but that may not be what he wants to do. It has really been a good tree for him (Wealthies are a good apple in lots of ways, and he routinely eats them right into the next summer) and he doesn’t want to disrespect any part of it!

I’m concerned that rot working down from the break will sicken the whole tree, or at least the left side. I want to be sure that any suggestions I make in that regard don’t set him up for failure.


From time to time old apple trees, with rotten trunks and 2/3 of the tree missing manage to live for a hundred years…but there’s no guarantees with a lot of exposed dead wood, for sure.

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Mark, your friend may have already done what he’s going to do with his tree, but thought I’d share my experience with cutting back a large 30 yr old tree. Not exactly the same since mine was a healthy tree, maybe 25 ft tall that I decided to bring down to manageable size, but it was also fairly large diameter. It had multiple big trunks which we cut out, one a year until one left. This one we cut back maybe 8-10" above a large branch and leaving many small shoots elsewhere. The big stubs did die back but not all the way down to the branches. The tree stopped producing through all this and, not surprising, had a jungle of growth to untangle when pruning. Quite a challenge for 2 or 3 yrs but it has calmed down now (though still needs a lot of shaping) and this year had a real good harvest, mostly on the side with the old original branch. But the tree, and the fruit, is healthy and doing well. Hopefully your friend’s will do likewise. Sue


A folowup to this post, now a month old:

My friend harvested all the apples from the unbroken part of the tree, and left the rest for the time being. I ate one from the broken part yesterday and it was fine, if a little under ripe. He’s going to leave them out for at least another week. I should also mention that we’ve had temps down to about 19F, and the apples seem just fine (as do a few of mine I left on my tree.) Plums, however, are mush.