Witches' broom
Click for larger image Ball-shaped witches'-broom in a tree

Witches’-brooms occur on a number of conifers and deciduous tree species. They are caused by a number of factors that result in a great proliferation of shoots with short internodes that can look like a bundle of twigs or witch’s broom. In other cases they appear as a ball-shaped dwarf plant growing in a tree. Propagation of these witches’-brooms in confers has been the source of many dwarf cultivars.

Life Cycle

Witches’-brooms are caused by a number of factors, including infection by fungi or phytoplasmas (a wall-less single celled organism with an unorganized nucleus), infestation of mites or dwarf mistletoe, genetic mutations, or adverse environmental conditions that kill the terminal bud of shoots. Those caused by genetic mutation may be stable allowing for them to be propagated vegetativly as dwarf cultivars. Some common trees that develop witches'-brooms include oak (caused by powdery mildew), incense cedar (caused by a rust), hackberry (cause by powdery mildew and an eriophyid mite), and rose rosette (caused by a virus). Phytoplasmas cause witches’-brooms and bunch disorders on pecan, hickory, lilac, walnut, willow, dogwood, ash, honeylocust, peach, elm. Juniper, firs, hemlocks, and pines can also develop witches’-brooms in reaction to infestation from dwarf mistletoe.

Integrated Pest Management Strategies

1. Prune out infected branches if you find their appearance objectionable. If practicable, prune out branches that are infected or cut back shoots to the point of origination on larger braches and trunks. Shoots may regrow requiring on going removal every few years.

Organic Strategies

This strategy is a strictly organic approach.

More images:

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Witches'-broom on hackberry (Celtis); caused by a combination of eriophyid mites (Acari) and the powdery mildew fungus
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Witches'-broom on hackberry (Celtis); caused by a combination of eriophyid mites (Acari) and the powdery mildew fungus
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Witches'-broom on hackberry (Celtis); caused by a combination of eriophyid mites (Acari) and the powdery mildew fungus
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Ball-shaped witches'-broom in a tree
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Witches'-broom on ninebark (Physocarpus) caused by powdery mildew
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Witches'-broom on ninebark (Physocarpus) caused by powdery mildew
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Witches'-broom on ninebark (Physocarpus) caused by powdery mildew
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Witches'-broom on azalea (Rhododendron)
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Close-up of witches'-broom on azalea (Rhododendron)
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Witche's-broom on rose (Rosa) caused by rose rosette. See link above.
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Witches'-broom on honeysuckle (Lonicera) possibly caused by aphids (Hemiptera)
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Compact witches'-broom on sycamore (Platanus)
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Witches'-broom on butterfly bush (Buddleja)
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Witches'-broom on butterfly bush (Buddleja)
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Witches'-broom on butterfly bush (Buddleja)
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Witches'-broom on loosestrife (Lythrum)
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Witches'-broom on loosestrife (Lythrum)
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Witches'-broom on Russian sage (Perovskia)
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Close-up of witches'-broom on Russian sage (Perovskia)
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Witches' broom on Japanes tree lilac (Syringa reticulata)
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Witches' broom on Japanes tree lilac (Syringa reticulata)


Pests and Problems

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