Pitch Canker – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Tree Diseases and Pests Glossary

What is Pitch Canker?

Pitch canker is a disease caused by the fungus Fusarium circinatum that affects various species of pine trees. The fungus infects the tree through wounds or natural openings, such as resin canals, and disrupts the flow of water and nutrients within the tree. This can lead to wilting, dieback, and ultimately death of the tree if left untreated.

What are the symptoms of Pitch Canker?

Symptoms of pitch canker vary depending on the severity of the infection and the species of pine tree affected. Common symptoms include resin bleeding from the trunk or branches, wilting of needles, yellowing or browning of needles, and dieback of branches. Infected trees may also exhibit resin-soaked bark, resinous cankers on branches or trunks, and stunted growth.

How does Pitch Canker spread?

Pitch canker spreads primarily through the movement of infected plant material, such as pine cones, seeds, or nursery stock. The fungus can also be spread by insects, birds, and wind-blown rain. Once established in an area, pitch canker can spread rapidly, especially in warm and humid conditions that favor fungal growth.

What trees are most susceptible to Pitch Canker?

While pitch canker can infect various species of pine trees, some are more susceptible than others. Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) and Bishop pine (Pinus muricata) are particularly vulnerable to pitch canker, as well as other exotic pine species. Native pines, such as ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi), can also be affected by the disease.

How is Pitch Canker treated?

There is no cure for pitch canker once a tree is infected, so treatment focuses on managing the symptoms and preventing further spread of the disease. Infected branches can be pruned to improve tree health and reduce the risk of spreading the fungus. Fungicides may also be used to protect healthy trees from infection, although their effectiveness can vary.

How can Pitch Canker be prevented?

Preventing pitch canker starts with proper tree care practices, such as avoiding unnecessary wounds to the tree and maintaining good tree health. Quarantines and restrictions on the movement of infected plant material can help prevent the spread of the disease to new areas. Planting resistant tree species and monitoring for early signs of infection can also help reduce the risk of pitch canker outbreaks.