Top 8 Common Diseases in Trees and Shrubs

Disease to trees and shrubbery takes place when a microorganism (fungi and bacteria) infects the plant and disrupts its normal growth. Environmental stress such as temperature extremes, air pollution and drought can also destroy a plant. Symptoms can range from slight discoloration to death.

The top ten most common diseases that damage plants in the Southeastern United States are:

1. Canker

A symptom of an injury often associated with an open wound that has become infected by a fungal or bacterial pathogen. Canker diseases frequently kill branches or structurally weaken a plant until the infected area breaks free, often in a wind or ice storm.

2. Blight

Blight is recognizable by the sudden death of all plant tissue including leaves, stems and flowers. It is typically caused by wet and humid conditions. Fire blight is a common bacterial infection that results in twig dieback.

3. Phytophthora Root & Crown Rot

Trees can suffer phytophthora for years before death. If the crown or basal stem is attacked, however, the tree may be killed within a single season. Young trees are especially vulnerable to phytophthora, due to their underdeveloped root systems and crowns. Good soil drainage is recommended to guard against phytophthora, as the disease thrives in warm, moist soil.

4.  Anthracnose

Anthracnose is a symptom rather than a specific fungus. Many fungi produce these symptoms on specific host plants. The most common symptom of this group of diseases is irregular dead areas or blotches on the leaves. Sometimes whole leaves are engulfed.

5.  Wilt

Leaves start to drop down and the plant begins to appear lifeless. It is usually caused by over or under watering or by pathogens.

6. Sooty Mold

Any plant infested with large numbers of sucking insects or growing beneath one of these plants may be affected by sooty mold. Sooty mold fungus is a general term for several species of fungi or molds that use the honeydew secreted by sucking insects as food to develop and grow. It generally does not cause damage to the plant, but can be a considerable nuisance to homeowners as it affects anything beneath the trees including hardscape, cars and structures.

7. Powdery Mildew

Mildew is one of the least harmful diseases that occurs on plants. It is easy to identify by a grey or white powdery coating on the plant. It is caused by fungal pathogens.

8. Leaf Curl

Leaf curl is a plant disease characterized by curling of leaves, and caused by a fungus, or virus. One of the most notable types is peach leaf curl, caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans, which infects peach, nectarine, and almond trees.

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