Chinese pistache tree problems

Chinese Pistache Issues: Chinese Pistache Tree Losing Leaves And Other Problems

Gardeners love Chinese pistache trees (Pistacia chinensis) for their graceful structure and vivid fall color. Many plant these deciduous trees to enjoy their fiery foliage. However, if you see your Chinese pistache tree losing leaves during the growing season, there’s a problem. Early Chinese pistache leaf drop or leaf yellowing often results from an irrigation issue, but it can also signal more serious problems. Read on for tips on handling these Chinese pistache issues.

What’s Wrong with My Chinese Pistache?

No landscape tree is entirely problem free, and this includes Chinese pistache. This ornamental is prized for its brilliant fall color before leaf drop, but if your Chinese pistache leaf drop starts before summer’s end, you’ll need to evaluate the care the tree is getting and its state of health.

Are you seeing problems with your tree and wondering: “what’s wrong with my Chinese pistache?” Start to figure it out by evaluating the cultural care you are giving the tree.

A healthy, established Chinese pistache will be lush with green leaves until summer’s end. At that point, the foliage turns yellow, red or orange

in a stunning autumn display. Did your tree drop leaves early, or do you see other Chinese pistache problems like yellowing or drying leaves before fall? These issues can be caused by anything from transplant adjustment to cultural issues to pests and diseases.

Chinese Pistache Problems

If you have recently transplanted the tree, especially a mature specimen, into your backyard, the pistache can require several years before it recovers from the shock. Any Chinese pistache issues that develop in that period may well disappear the following year.

If you spot a well-established Chinese pistache losing leaves in summer, or if the leaves change color or wilt early, take a look at the amount of water the tree is getting. Improper irrigation is a top cause of these Chinese pistache problems.

Too little irrigation or too much can cause Chinese pistache leaf drop. Has your region seen unusual periods of drought this year? That could be the problem. Provide additional irrigation during dry stretches so that the tree gets the water it needs.

If you’ve seen lots of rain this year, your tree may be getting too much water. You’ll want to stop providing supplemental irrigation during wet periods. It’s also wise to check drainage and aerate the soil.

Chinese pistache leaf drop may not be related to irrigation. If your tree is getting the same water it usually gets, yet you notice yellowing or falling leaves, it may be pests or disease.

Sucking bugs, like aphids and scale, can attack a Chinese pastiche tree, causing yellowed, distorted leaves. Look for tiny aphid bugs with pear-shaped bodies grouping on the leaves. Soft scales on leaves look more like small bumps on twigs and foliage. Wash off the pests with soapy water or non-toxic products.

Finally, a Chinese pistache losing leaves can be a sign of a serious fungal disease called verticillium wilt. You’ll see yellowed, curled leaves on lower branches that fall early. This disease cannot be cured, but you can often prevent it by providing the tree with well-draining soil.

Facts About Chinese Pistachio Tree

red pistachio leaves in autumn image by Richard Paul from

If you live in the Deep South, Florida or southern California and miss fiery red tree foliage of northern autumns, acquaint yourself with the Chinese pistachio tree. Not only does this tree form a lovely rounded crown to provide summertime shade, it also is not affected by drought or insect pests. Grow a Chinese pistachio as a lawn, street or park tree.


The Chinese pistachio (Pistacia chinensis), sometimes called the Chinese pistache or Chinese mastic, is a flowering plant in the cashew family, Anacardiaceae. Although it produces small fruits, this species is not the source for the edible pistachio nuts, which comes from species Pistacia vera.

Native Range

This deciduous tree is native to hills and mountain forests on rocky soils, from elevations of 300 to 10,000 feet. It grows naturally in the southeastern half of China, including the island of Taiwan.


Growing to a mature height of 50 to 80 feet and canopy spread of 22 to 30 feet, the Chinese pistachio is a more slender, upright tree in its youth. It has pinnate, or feather-like, leaves comprising 10 to 12 pointed leaflets of leathery dark green. In mid- to late spring, both male and female trees bear aromatic flowers that are tiny clusters of reddish green on branch tips. By mid-autumn, the pollinated female flowers develop into tiny, rounded, red fruits that mature to blue. The glossy foliage blushes intensely yellow, orange and scarlet red before dropping off to better reveal the grayish-brown bark.

Growing Requirements

Plant Chinese pistachio trees in fast-draining soil that has some fertility, one that already supports any type of plant growth, including weeds or grass. For best growth and shape of your developing tree, full sun is best–a location with at least eight hours of direct sunlight daily. This tree is widely adaptable and tolerant to acidic, neutral and alkaline soils as well as to landscapes often plagued by heat and drought. It is appropriate for use in USDA hardiness zones 6 through 9, or zone 10 in the more arid summer regions of Mediterranean climates.


Because this tree species is dioecious–having different gendered flowers on separate trees–the fruits form only on female plants. The dropping fruits in late autumn pose a potential hazard if piled on sidewalks, and a messy nuisance in formal public landscapes or boulevards. Male-gendered trees are preferred, but are not sexed until a large sapling, when the flowers first appear. Also, if the soil in which your Chinese pistachio grows is too moist or prolonged wet, chances for root rot and verticillium wilt increases. Too much shade on the foliage may lead to scale infestations.

Issue: November 18, 1996


I have three Chinese pistache trees about 15 feet from each other. The leaves on the first one turned completely brown before we had any frost. Its limbs are still green, but they don’t look as healthy as the limbs on the other two trees. The leaves on the second tree are beginning to turn brown like the those on the first tree did. The browning begins from the middle of the leaf cluster where the stem comes into the cluster. The leaves on the third tree have only slight browning on the inside of the leaf cluster. The trees all receive the same amount of water, not excessive. They are only between 10 to 15 feet in height and receive full sun. These symptoms have developed in the past month or so. By the way, something has also killed two of fifteen small shrubs. Can you help me or direct me to someone who can?


You have given me several clues which may be very useful. I can’t be absolutely sure, but I am inclined to think that an herbicide has been applied to an area within about 50 feet of the trees. The most likely candidate would be one of the long persistence herbicides often called soil sterilants. These are often used in gravel driveways, cracks and crevices of driveways and sidewalks, and along fences and property lines. These chemicals may remain active in the soil for long periods of time until the tree roots grow into the area of treated soil. The roots then absorb the chemical and translocate it back to the tree.

The symptoms that make me consider herbicides as a cause are the progressive nature of the symptoms and the fact that the symptoms begin at the base of the leaflets. Salt damage, early frost damage, and wind desiccation usually affect the edge of the leaf, with symptoms moving from the edge to the base of the leaflet. These herbicide symptoms often develop first on one side of the tree and progress to the whole tree. However, if the herbicide was applied in locations on all sides of the tree, then the damage could show all around the tree.

Disease may also be a cause. To determine if a disease is a problem, call your local county Extension Service office and find out what kind of sample would be needed to determine the problem. They may already be familiar with the symptoms and advise you of the problem. Otherwise, with a proper sample sent to the Extension Service plant pathologist, causal diseases may be determined. Local nurseries are also a source of information, especially if they will send the sample to a plant pathologist for diagnosis.

The shrubs may have been affected by the same problem, or they may have a separate problem. Again, your local county Extension Service office or local nursery should be able to help you.

When applying herbicides, remember that tree and shrub roots do grow to extend a great distance beyond the ends of the branches and that they are nearer the surface than most people realize.

Drying gourds


How can I dry gourds without having them rot?


The first consideration is good air circulation. Place them in a place with good air circulation all around them. This air should be dry, but here in New Mexico that is the easy part.

Don’t let the gourds touch each other while they are drying. This helps the air circulation and to prevent the spread of rot if some do begin to rot. The surface on which they rest should not hold moisture. A wire mesh surface would be the best, but a table top is also adequate. Turning them periodically helps them to dry and allows you to detect rot early and dispose of affected gourds.

Now the hard part. It can take six or more months for them to dry properly. Some people will drill pinholes at the ends of the fruit to speed the drying process, but even so, it takes many months. Be patient.

Be sure the gourds are mature before harvest. Leave them on the vines as long as possible to mature. Gourds harvested before they are sufficiently mature will be much more likely to rot before drying.

Red Push Pistache

Pistacia x ‘Red Push’

  • Beautiful deciduous shade tree
  • Stunning fall color (holds its color longer!)
  • Very heat tolerant
  • Cold tolerant

We love Red Push Pistache trees! They can be used to improve any landscape and the Pistacia ‘Red Push’ is a hybrid that can hold its stunning red fall color longer! It’s deciduous so that its beautiful dark green foliage and large canopy can provide plenty of shade in the summer and let the warmth of the sun in during the winter! It’s a perfect medium-sized tree that puts on a spectacular show in the fall when the leaves go from green to red, orange, and yellow tones! We like to plant them as a street tree, and when correctly placed around a home, mature-sized trees can provide shade in the summer so that it can help lower the temperature inside your house.

Red Push Pistache loves to grow in a spot that gets plenty of full sun exposure. It’s easy to see why these are fast becoming a landscaping favorite throughout the Southwest, from California to Arizona, Nevada and Texas! They love the heat, and we also like to plant them in rows so that they can be used as a natural privacy screen that can block out unwanted views in style!

Drought tolerant once established, Red Push Pistache trees are also cold tolerant. They are easy to care for with little to moderate watering needs and they can be pruned to shape. Add value to your home with a beautiful landscape. Moon Valley Nurseries makes it easy! Buy specimen trees so that you can have an instant landscape that can increase property value and make your life better!

We are the growers of Red Push Pistache so that we can assure their quality is the best you’ll find anywhere! Visit us today and handpick the perfect trees for the perfect spot in your yard! All our products are value engineered so that you get larger trees and better selection for the best price!

Are you in search of the perfect tree? Try the Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis). If you miss the vivid, light to very dark red, scarlet, orange and yellow colors of fall, this tree will give you a brilliant display in December, with new leaves emerging in late March to early April.

Chinese Pistache, a native to China and Taiwan, is a handsome ornamental hardwood shade tree with lustrous, finely-divided dark green leaves. It grows at a moderate rate to 25-40 feet tall and 25-30 feet wide. Young trees tend to be a bit awkward in appearance, but eventually become symmetrical, forming an upright oval, rounded shape. Older trees will develop interesting, deeply-fissured trunk bark.

The Chinese Pistache is a close relative of the pistachio nut tree. The wood is very hard and rot resistant. Young trees will probably need staking and grow slowly for the first three to five years after planting. Some careful structural pruning may also be necessary in the early years to develop an even canopy and proper branch spacing. Once they are established, they can grow two to three feet per year. This species has separate male and female trees (called dioecious). If you’re lucky to have a female, you’ll see clusters of half-inch red fruit. The fruit is non-edible for people but birds love them.

It’s not a fussy tree and will tolerate the alkaline soils and hot summers of the desert southwest. It is also hardy to minus 20 degrees F. Plant in full sun in deep soil that has good drainage. Allow the soil to dry on the surface between waterings to avoid soggy soil. Apply water once every 7 – 10 days during summer, then tapering to once a month in winter. Feed trees under 5 years old in the early spring with a nitrogen-based fertilizer.

The Versatility of the Chinese Pistache

A dependable tree for streets, desert landscapes, lawns or patios, with no serious disease problems, it is also pest resistant. It rarely requires pruning except to remove crossing, dead, or broken branches. Because this tree is deciduous in winter (it sheds its leaves), sunlight is able to warm the soil and any plants underneath.

Note: There are several cultivars (selective breeding and cultivation creates a different variety) and hybrids with subtle unique accent features. Look for the cultivar ‘Sarah’s Radiance’ which is a clone and gives consistent red fall color. A related tree called the Red Push Pistache is a hybrid between Pistacia atlantica and Pistacia integerrima and does not produce nuts. New leaves have distinctive red color when they first emerge.

For even more ideas on desert-friendly plants that can help you save water in your landscape, check out our plant of the month series.

Cathy Rymer is a Water Conservation Coordinator with the City of Chandler Public Works and Utilities Department’s Water Conservation Office, one of 19 water partners to offer water-saving advice and program.

Ask Texas Tree Surgeons: What’s Wrong with My Chinese Pistache? [UPDATED]

Another installment in our series of posts where Texas Tree Surgeons answers your tree questions. Are you having problems with your trees and want to know what’s wrong? Let us know! Dear Texas Tree Surgeons, My Chinese pistaches are looking terrible! The leaves are yellowing, the berries are black, and it looks like it’s dying. What’s going on?

Extensive dieback on a Chinese pistache

-A.B. For many years, the Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis) has been well-regarded as a landscape shade tree for urban environments in Texas. Although native to China, this species of pistache (related to the nut-bearing pistachio tree) can thrive in a variety of conditions. The Chinese pistache is a fast grower and is resistant to heat, drought, and alkaline soil, all common in North Texas. Like the native red oak, the Chinese pistache is a reliable source of fall color. The dark red berries that female Chinese pistaches produce are not only striking, but can attract birds and other wildlife. For many builders and landscapers, the Chinese pistache is a go-to choice.

If a tree’s leaves are showing spotting or uneven color change, it can be a sign of a problem.

This year, however, we have been seeing unprecedented dieback and wilting of leaves and berries in Chinese pistaches. Entire trees are exhibiting leaf spotting and extensive browning. Similar to the browning present in Italian cypresses the past two years, it seems that the Chinese pistache dieback is caused by a fungus. And much like the Italian cypress issues, there may not be much that can be done at this point.

Water, Water Everywhere

Recent wet weather, combined with poor drainage in clay soils, creates a “wet feet” situation in trees, where their roots are inundated with too much moisture. Trees that are not suited to wet soils are not able to regulate the high moisture level in their roots effectively. The roots then become susceptible to pests, especially fungi, which thrive in damp, poorly-drained soil. As the tree root tissue becomes waterlogged, the fungi are able to gain a foothold in the roots and begin infecting the tree internally. Eventually, the tree’s vascular system itself becomes the mechanism by which the fungal spores are spread throughout the branches, leaves, and fruit. The fungus disrupts cell function in the above-ground parts of the tree, just as it did in the roots.

Infected berries will rapidly change from red to black

What Can We Do About It?

Unfortunately, there is often little that can be done to improve overall drainage in clay soil. Still, there are some things that tree owners can do to give their trees the best chance:

  • Select native species that are well-adjusted to the North Texas climate
  • When planting, do not plant too deep, and follow good mulching practices
  • For established trees, do not overplant the area near the root collar and inside the drip line with turf grass or other groundcover
  • Consider root collar excavation (Airspading) for trees that were planted too deep
  • Vertical mulching and soil aeration can help break up heavy clay and compacted ground
  • Stop watering and turn off sprinkler systems during periods of heavy rain

Sometimes, despite best practices, fungal infections cannot be avoided. At the first signs of leaf spotting, or unseasonal browning or wilting, contact a certified arborist to diagnose any issues with your trees. Your arborist can suggest a plant health care program. Fungicidal treatments can be helpful, but must be timed appropriately. Once a tree shows extensive browning or dieback, it is often too late for fungicides to be effective.

If It’s Too Late…

If your trees are covered in dead berries and have dropped a lot of leaves already, it is unlikely that a fungicide would have much effect. The best thing to do would be to remove any diseased material from the tree, do as much as you can to improve drainage, and begin a fertilization program. With a good winter freeze, the fungus should die off. In the spring, reevaluate the tree for early signs of new or lingering fungal activity, and treat as appropriate. At Texas Tree Surgeons, we love trees, and we hate to see a new problem arise that affects a common and much-relied-upon tree like the Chinese pistache. We have submitted samples to the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab and are awaiting the results. With proper identification, we may be able to better control the particular fungus in the future. We will be sure to let you know what we find out. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates! —- We received our results from Texas A&M. The samples we submitted from one Chinese pistache specimen showed evidence of both Phytophthera root rot and Anthracnose stress. Phytophthera is a pathogen that causes damage to root tissue which can lead to the death of a tree. Phytophthera’s activity is enhanced by wet soil conditions and poor drainage. While fungicidal treatments can be applied, they will be of little benefit unless the underlying moisture and drainage issues are corrected.Anthracnoseis cause by a fungal pathogen, and can take advantage of plants that are already weakened by other stressors. The best method of managing anthracnose is to clean up and dispose of any fallen infected leaves or berries. Fungal sprays may be applied, but are generally not recommended during late summer or autumn, as the trees are preparing to go dormant for the winter, and the fungus should decline naturally. —- As always, please let us know if you have any tree questions. We are always happy to have a certified arborist come out and take a look a small issue to hopefully stop it from becoming a big problem!

Garden Detective: Chinese pistache tree may need more water | The Sacramento Bee

We have two Chinese pistache trees in our backyard. One of them is on an incline; the other is not. Also we get a lot of wind since our property is on a hill. It looks like one of the trees has grape-like leaves that have fallen to the ground. The other tree does not have the grape-like leaves. They both get plenty of sun from the early morning on.

I just fertilize both of them. Am I too late? Watering is done by a drip method for at least 12 minutes – three times a week. Should I increase this, or water by hand once a week?

Pat Clisham, Sacramento

According to UC master gardener Veronica Simpson, established Chinese pistache trees are susceptible to verticillium wilt. This causes foliage to turn brown, yellow or faded green, sometimes affecting only portions or branches of the tree.

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Infection can occur in the spring but may not be noticed until warm weather stresses the plant. Mature trees may take years to die or may recover if conditions improve for plant growth.

What stumped the master gardeners is the description of “grapelike leaves.” Are you certain that it is a Chinese pistache? Known for its excellent fall color, this deciduous tree has distinctive pinnate (or featherlike) compound leaves with 10 to 12 small pointed leaflets. While these trees lose their leaves in winter, none of those leaves can be described as grapelike. Perhaps a vine of some sort is growing in the tree?

To improve the trees’ condition, provide the trees with proper irrigation, infrequent deep watering and modest amounts of slow-release fertilizer. Deep watering ensures that the water reaches a depth of at least 18 inches. You can determine what the penetration is by inserting a sharp probe or by digging down with a shovel.

Additional information is needed to determine frequency of irrigation – the trees’ ages, type of irrigation system and what kind of nozzle or emitters, soil conditions and thickness of mulch. That is why digging down and checking soil moisture is the best method.

For example, many drip systems provide only 1 or 2 gallons per hour (gph); 12 minutes on a 1 gph system is less than a quart of water. That’s not enough for a full-grown tree.

On the other hand, soggy soil increases the risk of verticillium wilt.

If the tree needs to be removed and you plan to replace it, plant wilt-resistant species such as birch, Chanticleer pear, Capital pear or hawthorn. You can also check the Sacramento Tree Foundation website for lists of trees and their various attributes at

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