Anthracnose is a group of related fungal leaf and stem diseases that infect shade trees. Maple anthracnose is not the same disease as oak anthracnose, although the symptoms of these diseases may be quite similar. Anthracnose diseases generally infect the leaf veins and cause death of the vein and surrounding tissue. Control of anthracnose diseases follows the same procedure for all shade trees affected. The disease does not cause the death of the host but may reduce growth over successive seasons of complete defoliation.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Irregular, light brown spots of dead tissue develop along the veins of the leaves. Affected plants may have the appearance of being sun-scorched. Sunken cankers containing fungal spores develop on infected twigs of some trees, such as sycamore.

Life Cycle

Anthracnose fungi overwinter on fallen leaves and twigs that were infected the proceeding year. Infection is favored by cool, moist weather in the spring of the year. Infection can occur on the vulnerable young leaves when there is a film of water on the leaf surface. Infection is typically more severe on the lower third of the tree, where the humidity is the highest.

Integrated Pest Management Strategies

1. Collect and destroy infected leaves as they fall. Infected leaves and twigs that remain in the vicinity are a source of spores for new infections in the spring.

2. Prune out dead branches. Be sure to clean all garden tools to avoid the spread of the disease. A 1–part bleach to 9–part water solution can be used to dip tools into between cuts.

3. Promote air circulation. Thin out excessive twig and branch growth. This will reduce the period of time that leaves are wet and vulnerable to inoculation.

4. Keep trees growing vigorously. Supply 1–2 inches of water weekly only during dry periods. Fertilize early in the spring or in late fall.

5. Spray with a fungicide when leaves are beginning to enlarge from the buds. Reapply at 7–10 day intervals for two or three more times. Fungicide sprays are most appropriate for younger, newly transplanted trees that may not be able to withstand defoliation. The available fungicides are preventive, not curative, and therefore, must be applied before spotting occurs. Commonly used products include copper, chlorothalonil (Daconil), captan, ferbam, mancozeb, maneb, and thiram. Your pesticide choice should be based on the particular problem you are seeking to control. Consult an arborist for difficult situations and where power equipment is required.

Organic Strategies

Strategies 1 through 4 are organic approaches. Of the fungicides listed in Strategy 6, consult the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI™) for appropriate organic copper products.

Pesticide Disclaimer: 

Always follow the product's label and ensure the product is effective against anthracnose. Not following the pesticide label before usage is a violation of federal law.