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Recognizing and combating shoot diseases: fire blight & co.

22.08.2022  /  Reading time: 5 minutes

Dying or changing shoots can indicate a plant disease. To find out which disease you are dealing with, here is an overview of the four most common shoot diseases in the garden. These diseases mainly affect the shoots and often also the leaves of the plants. Read more about the symptoms and ways to combat these plant diseases here.

This article contains:

  1. Recognize fire blight (Erwinia amylovora)
  2. Monilia top drought
  3. Fruit tree canker (Neonectria ditissima): Recognizing the damage
  4. Boxwood shoot dieback (Cyclindrocladium buxicola)
  5. Frequently asked questions about drive disorders

Quick Overview

Damage caused by fire blight, fruit tree canker & Co.

  • Damage caused by fire blight (must be reported!): Leaves, shoot tips and flower stems turn brown to black; shoot tips die off; infected plant parts look as if they have been burnt (susceptible plants include apple, pear, quince, hawthorn, firethorn, rowan, serviceberry and rock pear)
  • Monilia tip drought: flowers turn brown; shoot tips begin to wilt and eventually dry out; dried plant parts remain on the tree until winter; gum flow (especially in stone and pome fruit)
  • Fruit tree canker: formation of tumors starting at the bark with small, sunken pale brown spots (fruit trees such as apples and pears are particularly susceptible, but also alders, birches, hawthorns, beeches, ash trees, walnuts and poplars)
  • Boxwood shoot dieback: black-brown longitudinal stripes on the shoots; orange to dark brown spots on the upper leaf surfaces; a white fungal carpet forms on the undersides of the leaves; later dieback of the shoots and leaf drop

Recognize fire blight (Erwinia amylovora)

  • Symptoms: Leaves, shoot tips and flower stems turn brown to black; shoot tips die off and grow poorly; infected plant parts look as if they have been burnt (hence the name fire blight)
  • Susceptible plants: Woody plants, especially pome fruit such as apple, pear, quince, hawthorn, firethorn, rowan, serviceberry, rock pear
  • Fire blight is notifiable, so you should report it immediately to the responsible state office or the State Institute for Agriculture! But beware, the disease can easily be confused with other diseases (e.g. monilia).
  • Recognizing, combating and preventing fire blight (unfortunately the article is still missing, but will be added soon!)
Apple tree infested with fire blight
Fire blight must be reported! If you are unsure, be sure to get a second opinion in order to contain the spread of this plant disease! I, Paethon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Monilia top drought

  • Symptoms: Blossoms turn brown during or shortly after flowering; after three to four weeks, shoot tips begin to wilt and eventually dry out; dried plant parts remain on the tree until winter and are not shed; so-called gum flow often occurs at the transition from healthy to diseased wood
  • Susceptible plants: mainly stone and pome fruit such as sour cherries, apricots, peaches and plums
  • Fighting and preventing monilia (unfortunately the article is still missing, but will be added soon!)
Sour cherry tree infested with Monilia top blight.
The gum flow and dead shoot tips are characteristic of monilia tip drought. Image by Schreibkraft (CC BY SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons.


Fruit tree canker (Neonectria ditissima): Recognizing the damage

  • Symptoms: the bark of the shoots is affected first; small, sunken pale-brown spots appear on the bark; infection spreads rapidly; larger areas of infection develop, which the tree closes like bulges (formation of tumors)
  • Susceptible plants: especially on fruit trees such as apples, pears; deciduous trees such as alders, birches, hawthorns, beeches, ash trees, walnuts and poplars
  • Combating and preventing fruit tree canker (unfortunately the article is still missing, but will be added soon!)
Crab on the branch of an apple tree.
Such growths on the shoots and trunk of trees indicate fruit tree canker. Image by Cherubino on Wikimedia Commons.

Boxwood shoot dieback (Cyclindrocladium buxicola)

  • Symptoms: black-brown longitudinal stripes on the shoots; orange to dark brown spots on the upper sides of the leaves (quickly become larger, flow into each other and then cover the entire leaf); a white fungal carpet forms on the undersides of the leaves (use a magnifying glass!); later dieback of the shoots and leaf drop
  • In addition to boxwood shoot dieback, shoot dieback can also indicate an infection with Phytophtora: Recognizing and combating Phytophtora or brown rot
  • Susceptible plants: as the name suggests, mainly box trees
  • Fighting and preventing boxwood shoot dieback (the article on this is unfortunately still missing, but will be added soon!)
Healthy boxwood
This plant disease is relatively new in Germany and has only been known since 2004. Since then, the fungus has attacked box trees, causing shoots and leaves to die. Image by Alexa from Pixabay.

Hopefully you have found out which plant disease you are dealing with! We keep our fingers crossed that your plants will recover and that you have found a suitable remedy to combat it!

If you didn't find a suitable disease here, you can find more possible diseases in the article on leaf diseases in plants. This is because shoot and leaf diseases often cannot be clearly separated, as both shoots and leaves are usually affected.


If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at [email protected].

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Cover image by onnola (CC BY SA 2.0) on Flickr.

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Author

Marie

Marie studied agricultural science at the University of Hohenheim. Her main focus is on ecological agriculture and permaculture. She writes articles for Fryd to educate people about ecological interrelationships and alternatives to current land use. Our current economic systems, especially in agriculture, have numerous negative effects on nature and destabilize our ecosystems. We need a great diversity in our gardens and beds again to counteract the extinction of species. Every gardener can contribute to creating and maintaining habitats and food for a wide variety of creatures. With her articles, she would like to pass on her experience in dealing with natural systems and give people the opportunity to contribute to a stable ecosystem and thus also to securing our livelihood.

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FAQ

Fire blight manifests itself as brown to black colored leaves, shoot tips and flower stems. The shoot tips die off and infected parts look burnt. Pome fruits such as apples and pears are usually affected.

The flowers turn brown and the tips of the shoots begin to wither and eventually dry out. Gum flow often occurs at the transition from healthy to diseased wood.

The bark of the shoots shows small, sunken, pale brown spots. The infection spreads rapidly and larger infection sites and tumors develop.

This disease is characterized by black-brown longitudinal stripes on the shoots and orange to dark brown spots on the upper leaf surfaces. Later, the shoots die back and the leaves drop.

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