New leaf growth that appears water-soaked or wilted and turns from brown to black are symptoms of Fire Blight. New leaf growth is most affected and stems may fold over. The leaves appear as though they were torched with fire, hence the name, Fire Blight. Fire Blight is a bacterial disease that affects plants in the Rosaceae family, such as crabapple, pear, cotoneaster, hawthorn and quince, just to name a few. The bacteria pathogens are able to overwinter in the tree and may reappear the following year, if conditions are ideal for bacterial growth.
The bulk of Fire Blight infections occur when we are experiencing warm temperatures followed by wet conditions during the time the tree or shrub is flowering. Strong winds and hail may create pathogen entry points into the tree which further spreads the disease. Rain and insects also move the bacteria throughout the tree. There have been reported sightings of Fire Blight this year in Illinois.
Fire Blight can be avoided in a number of ways. To begin with, plant disease resistant tree and shrub cultivars when selecting potentially susceptible varieties for the landscape. Also, maintain good plant health by properly watering and fertilizing the landscape. If a tree or shrub does become infected with Fire Blight it is essential that diseased branches are quickly removed. Fire Blight spreads rapidly through a tree. Pruning should be done well below the infected areas and during dry weather. Sterilize the pruning tools between each cut to prevent spreading the disease.
Fire Blight symptoms look similar to other tree issues, such as frost damage. It’s important to have the disease properly diagnosed before taking action. Kramer Tree Specialists offers the services of certified arborists that will evaluate and offer recommendations for your tree or shrub. Contact us today for more information.