Gummosis of Fruit Trees
Click for larger image Oozing sap or gummosis at the base of a cherry tree (Prunus), cause unknown

Gummosis is the oozing of sap from wounds or cankers on fruit trees. Gummosis can result from environmental stress, mechanical injury, or disease and insect infestation. Cytospora canker or Valsa canker, the fungal cause of gummosis, affects stone fruit trees like apricot, cherry, peach, and plum. Cytospora infection is distinguishable from insect damage and mechanical injuries because sawdust or pieces of bark are not mixed in the sap, as it would be with insect or mechanical damage. Cytospora canker is also known as perennial canker.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

On trees infected with Cytospora canker, new shoots or leaves may turn yellow or wilt. Sunken lesions develop on the bark. These lesions enlarge, and gummy, amber-colored sap oozes from the bark. Curly orange threads (fungal chains) may grow out of the bark as the disease progresses. Leaves may brown and drop. The disease kills the wood underneath the cankers, often causing whole branches to die. Infected wood and the defoliation that may occur weakens the tree, but if the disease infects the trunk, the whole tree may die.

Life Cycle

Cytospora canker is caused by one of two different fungi. The fungus overwinters on dead wood or in sunken lesions. Curly orange fungal chains will release spores in the spring which are distributed by winds and rain splash. Once the spores land on a host tree, they enter through wounds made from insect boring, mechanical injuries, or winter injury. Symptoms are more prevalent during warm (70–85 degrees F), wet spring weather as the moisture facilitates entry into wounds. Trees just coming out of dormancy are most susceptible to the pathogen.

Integrated Pest Management Strategies

1. Be careful not to damage trunks with lawn mowers or other yard and garden equipment. Fungal spores enter the tree through injured tissue where they germinate and penetrate the tissue. This is the primary mode of infection.

2. Take steps to prevent winter injuries. Plant in well-drained soils or amend soils to improve drainage as needed. Avoid planting in open or windy areas to reduce desiccation. Select winterhardy cultivars matched to your hardiness zone. Paint the lower branches and trunks of 1–3 year old trees with white latex paint to reduce cold damage.

3. Proper care and maintenance. Prevent insect boring damage by maintaining the health of the tree. Prune and dispose of diseased branches in late winter. Burn infected wood, if possible.

4. Plant more resistant varieties. None of these are immune, but fungal development is slower if the disease becomes established.

Peach: ‘Bisco’, ‘Carmen’, ‘Champion’, ‘Harvelle’, ‘Jayhaven’, ‘Redqueen’, Reliance’, or ‘Veteran’.

Organic Strategies

All of the recommended IPM strategies are strictly organic approaches.

More images:

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Oozing sap or gummosis at the base of a cherry tree (Prunus), cause unknown; gummosis from borers would be mixed with frass
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The thick, gummy or jellylike sap oozing from the trunk of this cherry tree (Prunus) is only a symptom, called gummosis, not a cause.
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Gummosis, possibly from peachtree borer (Lepidoptera), on cherry (Prunus)
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Canker on peach branch (Prunus) with gummosis
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Canker exposed on peach (Prunus) with gummosis
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Gummosis canker on peach (Prunus)
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