Sphaeropsis is the name of a tree fungus that causes serious problems for many different species of conifers. It can leave the tree full of discolored needles and dying branches. When left to proliferate unchecked, it can easily wreak havoc on the landscaping around your home. If you would like to learn more about this disease, as well as how to prevent it from impacting your trees, here is how to identify and treat Sphaeropsis shoot blight.

Predisposition Of Certain Trees

Not all pine trees are equally vulnerable to Sphaeropsis. Native trees generally fare much better against the fungus than do species that have been transplanted outside of their naturally occurring range. The environmental factors around a particular tree may also play a role in how easily it contracts the disease. Trees that have been stressed by such factors as drought, hail damage, excessively compacted soil, insects, and insufficient sunlight are more likely to succumb to Sphaeropsis.

Signs Of Sphaeropsis

The initial clue that a tree may have been afflicted with Sphaeropsis shoot blight are branch tips that are turning yellow, tan, or brown. The shoots at the tips of such branches will often contain needles that, in addition to being discolored, appear especially small and stunted. There may also be resin on the exterior of such shoots, causing any needles to look as if they are glued down. If you notice black spots at the bases of the discolored needles, these may be the fruiting bodies of Sphaeropsis.

The older the shoot, twig, or branch, the less likely it is to be affected with Sphaeropsis in the early stages. The exception to this rule are twigs or branches that have been broken, or suffered some form of environmental damage or stress. The disease may also affect some of the tree's younger pine cones, on which black fruiting bodies may also sometimes be detected.

Dealing With Sphaeropsis

Sphaeropsis shoot blight management generally falls into two categories: cultural strategies and chemical strategies. Cultural strategies are those indirect methods that act by boosting the natural defenses of trees that have yet to become infected by the disease. These methods may include any of the following:

  • increased irrigation during hot or dry weather
  • promoting healthy root development by limiting proximity of neighboring trees
  • landscape efforts to reduce poor drainage

Chemical strategies are used primarily to treat trees that have been diagnosed by a professional as being afflicted with Sphaeropsis. Such methods involve the application of fungicides that are applied yearly by a knowledgeable tree specialist like NORCAL Tree Care.