What's wrong with my camellia?

Asked February 22, 2016, 9:55 AM EST

My camellia had these burned-looking spots last summer. Now they are back again. Is it a fungus? What can I do?

Multnomah County Oregon

1 Response

Your thought that the leaves were burned last summer is accurate. But, instead of the leaves developing new spots this spring, the previously damaged areas are continuing to degrade. Even so, the green portions of the affected leaves will remain green and healthy.

Recall that this past summer had some unusually bright, sunny days with high temperatures and low humidity. The first image shows varying degrees of sun damage. The leaf towards the upper left had minor damage, only enough to discolor the leaf. The thin gray spots on other leaves indicate more severe damage in that the leaf tissue was killed. It’s typical that the gray spots disintegrate and fall out with time; other times tiny black specks develop in the grayed areas which indicate that a fungus is further degrading the dead tissue; that fungus won't affect the healthy green portions.

The only management is for you to decide if you want to remove the damaged leaves or not. (If this were my camellia, and the shrub had a limited number of healthy leaves, I would allow them to remain until they drop of their own accord.) If we have more unusual heat this year, you might temporarily rig some shade.