Any advice? My new yard has some beautiful plants that were neglected
by the former owner. The dogwood is about 40 feet tall and the upper
third looks pretty healthy. The lower branches and leaves are quite
damaged by the disease although the trunk looks fine.
I've read about prevention (which I wish had been exercised here) and
control, but I'm not sure if it's a lost cause. Anyone have
experience combatting this disease? Should I spend a few years trying
to revive this tree or should I begin thinking about what to put in
Even if you choose to try fungicides to come to a stalemate with the fungus,
the tree will always remain infected and the dead and diseased portions will
not renew themselves. Injecting fungicide is expensive, and it only delays
the inevitible. I would personally take it down now before it could infect
any other dogwoods in the area (if that hasn't happened already) and replace
it with something else. No sense wasting a couple of hundred bucks a year
on something that can't be cured anyway, and if it's that tall, is probably
already near the end of it's shorter lifespan anyway.
I agree with Sunflower. IME, only quite young trees are able to bounce back
well from this problem and that requires both a diligent program of cultural
control as well as regular spraying of fungicides. If the tree is heavily
infected, it is only a matter of time before the disease takes its toll,
regardless of how methodical you are about spraying - the fungicides are
just not that effective and very difficult to apply thoroughly and with
sufficient regularity on a tree of that size.
Other than selecting resistant species and hybrids for planting from the
outset, I'd be interested to know what you learned about prevention - it is
nearly impossible to *prevent* a fungal infection, but many can be
controlled through management, depending on the problem. And there is a huge
difference between prevention and control. FWIW, there are very few
reputable nurseries in this area that even offer Cornus florida (or our
native C. nuttalli) for sale any more other than a very limited number of
more resistant cultivars as the disease is so prevelent and widespread.
pam - gardengal
I am no fan of chemicals - by a LONG shot - but I respectfully disagree. It
is most possible to bring declining flowering dogwoods around. The disease
organism seems to be on the decline in many parts of the east in native
woodlands. I am guessing that there may be a hyporvirulizing agent that
attacks the fungus, as is often true of American chestnut blight.
Mike LaMana, MS
Heartwood Consulting Services, LLC
There is no cure or effective treatment for dogwood anthracnose. However,
infected trees given ideal care are stronger at fighting off the cyclic
attacks this disease makes on the trees, worse in years with heaviest
rainfall. These are the efforts that will have some positive effect on the
1) Careful watering during droughty months.
2) Perfect drainage during rainy seasons.
3) Mulching to limit its watering needs, starting one foot away from trunk
extending to drip line or further.
4) Avoiding overhead watering & whatever else it takes to keep the leaves
dry more often than wet.
5) Protection from bark impacts or injuries
6) Maximizing air circulation around the tree by having no other trees nearby.
7) Persistant removal & careful discarding of limbs & twigs showing signs
8) Persistant removal & careful discarding of fallen leaves.
9) Avoidance of fertilizers, or if used at all, lowest-nitrogen fertilizer
once a year only, in spring. Sterile manure compost would be better.
10) Locate tree in sun. Despite that dogwoods like shade, alas so does the
anthracnose, & the tree will adapt to too much sun more easily than to an
aggressive flourishing of its chronic infection.
11) Religiously remove all brown leaves & discard carefully; diseased
leaves frequently adhere to the tree year-round spreading the disease
through to the twigs.
12) Never include dogwood leaves or twigs in the mulch.
13) Planting only low-water-use pernnials in the vicinity with the
dogwood's needs exclusively in mind.
These methods adhered to strongly enough can mean a diseased tree will be
attractive in more years than it will be unattractive. It will, however,
still be a sick tree, & more prone to insect attack & other diseases.
A large tree, or a tree in the wild, will be impossible to assist to the
fullest potential unless you really can crawl up into the highest branches
on a regular basis to remove diseased leaves & trim diseased twigs & do
everything else a high-mainteance sickly tree requires. Trees not
rigorously cared for die within three years. With care, this can be
extended to ten years. With a hardy hybrid, much longer.
Dogwoods may look very nice in alternating years; seeming improvement in a
given year is invariably an illusion.
Non-organic chemical treatment with an array of fungicides have never
proven to be particularly effective. Persistant use of fungicides
occasionally helps keep the leaves from splotching so early in the year,
without otherwise slowing the progression of the disease, & with the bad
side-effect of lowering the fungal component of beneficial microorganisms
thus hastening rather than retarding disease in the given tree. But in
some years, properly timed use of fungicides will at least give the tree a
better leaf look. Craig R. Hibben, a plant patholigist undertaking
special studies of dogwoods & chestnuts, made a list of 8 points similar
to mine above of what to do to lengthen the life of dogwoods. He left OFF
the list the use of fungicides.
While some resistant hybrids are on the market, none of them are all that
resistant, though better survivors with less maintenace if well positioned
in a very sunny uncrowded setting.
The best hope for the eastern dogwood are the descendants of the surviving
trees after mass die-off of dogwoods in Catoctin Mountain Park. These are
the first & so far the only truly resistant C. florida stocks in
production, but not yet widely available except to parks & forest areas
where the species is being reintroduced after losing nearly their entire
populations of dogwoods. Eventually the resistant strain will reach
gardeners. Other resistant forests are being monitored in the northeast;
it is beginning to not look hopeless for the eastern dogwood. Hope for the
western dogwood is still not very good. However, after forest fires in
British Columbia, the western dogwoods made an unexpected comeback that is
not yet thought indicative of lasting improvements, but Nature may provide
resistant wild trees for the western species given time.
When the disease progresses to blistering the trunk it is time for grief
counselling & professional removal of every part of the tree that is above
ground, including thorough cleanup of the sawdust scattered by the
chainsaw. I would not at this time in history plant a native dogwood tree.
-paghat the ratgirl
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
Feel free to disagree all you want - however, your experience with dogwoods
springing back from this disease does not match mine. Or any number of local
certified arborists, tree diagnosticians or forestry personnel. Perhaps it
may be due to regional differences with this specific pathogen, however a
mature eastern or native dogwood in this area infected with anthracnose is
merely a casuality waiting to happen despite whatever treatment options one
chooses to follows. Once contracted, the trees never recover, although the
actual decline and death can be delayed with proper care. If you could in
fact bring them back to health, I'd say your services would be very much in
pam - gardengal
Some notes from coastal N. Carolina....
Here, the large majority of C. florida in landscapes are sick,
seemingly from a combination of anthracnose, alternating
drought and overly wet conditions, and occasional salt spray
and winds from hurricanes. I have never seen one come back,
though I *have* seen a specimen or two in sheltered areas that
have not succumbed. (Probably someone should clone one of
them.) Also, when one drives away from the coast 30 to 40
miles, the proportion surviving is much greater.
To my amazement, people are still adding them to new beds or
landscapes. They die.
I would like to believe that as Mike L. said, the disease may
be diminishing, at least in some habitats. These are
beautiful trees. However, the recovery is not yet in evidence
here on the coast. We recently removed 8 specimens that were
getting sicker after a few years of care (though not
application of systemic fungicides). It probably doesn't help
that there are plenty of sycamores nearby, all of which seem
to carry some level of anthracnose or something similar.
Beaufort, NC (on the coast in zone 8a)
(Remove spam traps from email address to reply.)
They have... I read an article that at the moment I can't put my hand on but
there are disease resistant dogwoods out there, some cloned by a single tree in
a field of very sick dogwoods.
Zone 5 CT
I don't agree, I have a 100 yo dogwood in my front yard that deserves to be
saved to the best of my ability. It is a lovely, lovely tree that would be
missed by many people.... someone comments about it almost daily. This lovely
tree was planted by the original owners of this house.
I had a small one that seems to have recovered after I pruned off the
diseased branches, but I suspect that it is just a matter of time before it
gets re-infected. As others have indicated, a mature tree will be less
likely to survive. I would plan on a replacement - perhaps a flowering
crabapple. Also, I doubt that neglect on the previous owner's part played
any role in the tree's demise. I don't why these trees are even being sold,
but I see them every year. I have told people looking at them not to buy
them, but obviously enough people buy them that merchants continue to stock
the. The same goes with Bradford pears which grow beautifully for about 15
years and then break into splinters during a storm.
I see this is not such an easy decision! I appreciate the range of
comments and that this group does not disintegrate into squabbling
when they disagree. The reason I posted here was because I live in
the Pacific Northwest and there are few people who have experience
with this disease here. The tree in question is a Pacific Dogwood.
It is tall enough and the damaged bits have worked their way high
enough that it would be pretty impossible to prune them all. The
crown looks fine as does the upper branches on the west side. If I
get a cherry picker in here, I could cut away all the damage, but the
tree would look pretty bare. I hate to just throw in the towel
without even trying, but if I put a lot of effort into this with no
result I'll be more attached to it than I am now. It's only been
three months and I'm already having a tough time making the decision.
Argh. There's just something great about buying a house with mature
trees and shrubs surrounding it. That part of me wants to give this
tree a chance. Again, thanks for the comments. I'll probably be back
at some point with more new yard-owner questions.
Best regards to you all,
As a fellow PNW'erner, the chances of your pulling this tree out of its
slump are slim to nonexistant. Stands of our native dogwood are being
decimated by this disease and it is near impossible to find one that is
unaffected. I'd seriously review your replacement options - it is only going
to get worse as time progresses.
I'm not sure I read your post correctly - did you say there are few people
here in the PNW experienced with this disease? That is most certainly not
true. Dogwood anthracnose (and Pacific madrone anthracnose) is a significant
portion of the pests and disease curriculum of any hort course of study in
this region and most qualified nursery personnel in the area are very
familiar with the disease as are arborists, extensions offices and the
pam - gardengal
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