Was My Tree Burned?
Written by: ISA Certified Arborist, RJ Busch
Spring is finally here, and your trees have started to leaf out, but while you are walking through your yard you begin to notice that something doesn’t look quite right. If you see that your tree is sprouting leaves but some of the branches are drooping and may even appear to be dead; your tree may have Fireblight.
Fireblight is a bacterial disease that only affects trees and shrubs in the Rose family. The list of susceptible species is quite long, but Apples, Crabapples, Hawthorns, Pears, Mountain Ash, and Serviceberries are often the most affected trees within our landscape. Symptoms start to appear in the blossoms. Then progress to other parts of the tree, such as the branching and trunk bark at the beginning of the growing season. As fireblight further invades the tree, it attacks the leaves, blossoms, and tree tissue and the younger bark will turn brown and black. When a tree is first infected, fireblight has a water-soaked appearance. However, after an extended amount of time, it begins to look dried out and the leaves will curl into a shepherd’s crook shape. Eventually, the leaf tissue will have a burned or scorched look…hence the name fireblight.
This infection took place almost immediately as trees started to grow last year. Warm weather and long periods of splashing rain transmit the bacteria to the blossoms and new branches. Once the bacteria enter the blossoms, bees can act as carriers to other trees and shrubs. This continues throughout the season and kills branches while also “engulfing” the entire tree which ultimately causes its demise. Because of the high infection rate last season, we can expect symptoms to resume this spring and summer when the rainy season returns.
Depending on the infection, control can be difficult. First, any infected leaves, branches, or fruit that have fallen to the ground should be removed to help reduce infection and you should avoid mowing these into the ground. A copper-based soil bactericide drenched around the base of the tree can be used to help manage the symptoms. Additionally, pruning out all infected branches is recommended, and your pruning tool must be disinfected in between each cut in order to reduce the chance of bacteria spreading to other parts of the tree or to another tree.
Although it may be difficult to stop the spread of fireblight, it is possible to successfully manage it with all the methods Wachtel Tree Science has to offer. Please contact your Wachtel Tree Science certified arborist to help diagnose and manage any fireblight issues on your important landscape trees!