Fire Blight

Fire Blight

What Is Fire Blight?

Fire blight is a highly damaging native pathogen for many species of plants. Being a widespread bacterial disease that is easily transferable, Fire Blight (Erwinia amylovora) can kill tree branches or entire trees. Fire Blight is usually spread in the warm (65 degrees or more) temperatures and during the humid times of year. If these temperatures are reached during the bloom cycle (spring bloom), then the chance of a Fire Blight infection increases greatly. Fire Blight can spread from an infected plant to healthy plant by rain, insects, wind, and pruning tools.

How Do I Know If I Have Fire Blight?

Initially, the disease enters the tree through openings such as flowers, and by insects, usually in the new growth. As the disease lingers, the older wood and branches will become affected. The dying new growth will die back from the tip and will usually have a deep rust color or look “burned”. One of the most telling signs your tree has Fire Blight is the ends or tips of the branches start to curl or bend, resembling a  “shepherds crook”. The leaves of a plant infected by Fire Blight will start to turn a dark brown and then black. The leaves will also start to curl and wilt, but will not fall off. The leaves will usually remain on the tree all summer, and usually even after the non-affected leaves have fallen. In the spring, blossoms infected with Fire Blight will turn to a light brown color then a dark brown color. There also is typically a bacterial “ooze” that is on the diseased blossoms, fruit, stems, and often the infected trunks. This ooze, which is filled with the Fire Blight disease, can be pearl color or amber color.

Plants Affected By Fire Blight:

  • Serviceberry
  • Pear
  • Crabapple
  • Hawthorn
  • Cherry
  • Spirea
  • Rose

Fire Blight Resistant Plants:   


Resistant Cultivar:


Adams, Dolgo, Jewelset (and many apple-scab resistant varieties)


Kieffer, Magness, Moonglow, Orient



Fire Blight Treatments:

The treatment for Fire Blight is difficult. Prevention is the best method, which is done by two spray applications of the trees in the spring.

In the summer, some control can be achieved by an injection treatment, but only about a 50% control. Summer time control is usually handled by pruning out the infected wood, 8” (crab apples) to 12” (pears) below the infection. These branches must then be burned to destroy the infection and prevent the further spread of the disease. Also, when pruning the trees, the pruning tools must be cleaned after each and every cut, using a diluted alcohol solution or a diluted bleach solution.

Because prevention is the best method, and curatives after infection are difficult, and the considerable time investment to prune the trees, many experts recommend removal and replacement with trees varieties that are resistant to Fire Blight. We only suggest this approach on a very few trees that contract the disease on a regular basis.

Do-It-Yourself Fire Blight Treatment:

We do not suggest this, but for those who insist: Do not prune the infected trees when it is wet outside, and avoid high nitrogen fertilizing of the trees., especially in the summer. If you are pruning and using a disinfectant, remember to wash and oil your loppers after you have finished your pruning.  Also, do not prune the infected trees in the fall, but prune the cankers in the winter or very early spring. For chemical treatments, consult your local horticulturalist for fungicides containing copper sulfate, which need to be applied every seven days during the bloom time in the spring.

Cost Of Fire Blight Treatment:

The cost of having a professional service manage your Fire Blight depends on the service. Applying spray applications is fairly inexpensive, maybe around $60 - $90 per tree for a few trees and lower if you have many trees. Pruning of trees after a tree contracts Fire Blight can be very time consuming and expensive. Workers properly trained by a qualified Arborist or Forester are required to do the work, and this cost can be anywhere from $150 per tree to $500 per tree depending upon the number of trees and the size of the trees.

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David Sanders
2015-06-29, 16:56
A quick thank you for going the extra mile, our place looks better than it has in years. We appreciate it very much.
David C., Frankfort, IL
2015-06-05, 20:52
Yard looks great as always! Keep up the good work!
Mr. L. Brown
2014-08-02, 15:05
Al & Team,
A big thank you for you diligent work on our property, we are very happy with how our lawn and plants look. All of the residents here … read more