Monday, July 28, 2008

What Killed our Cherry Trees?

Dear Anne,
We live in South-Western Durham and have a lot of heavily wooded area all around our back garden. When we returned from vacation, we noticed that the leaves on a small Cherry Tree were showing signs of what we thought was a severe fungal infection, and we decided to cut it down because the area needed thinning to give some more space to a nearby Sugar Maple and we feared that whatever disease the tree had might spread to our other trees. We carefully raked up and disposed of all the fallen leaves to help prevent it from spreading. So far, we have not noticed similar problems on any of our other trees. I have just spent a couple of hours on line trying to research what the problem may have been and whether it might spread to our other trees. It does not seem to match the pictures and descriptions I find on line of Leaf Spot, Brown Rot or Canker. A neighbor of ours had a similar problem with a small cherry tree. Is there some new blight attacking only cherry trees? Can we do more to prevent it spreading to our other trees or is it something that only attacks cherry trees? Please advise, and thanks in advance for any information you can offer

Bill & Heather

Anne's Response:

Sometimes such damage is caused by bacteria (Xanthomonas pruni). The center of the infection eventually falls out leaving a "shot hole" that is similar to the damage caused by some of the fungal diseases. In most cases of these diseases the plants that will be damaged by the same disease will be members of the prunus family- beach plum, peach, flowering cherries, and flowering almonds. I would not expect it to cause a problem with other trees. The best source of information on identifying these problems is the Cooperative Extension Service. There is a very good master gardener program in Durham and the horticultural extension agent in the Durham County office does an excellent job of identifying insect and disease problems.

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