Cleveland Pear Tree - What needs to be done to save tree? Has dead ends and black spotted leaves.

Asked March 5, 2017, 7:54 PM EST

We have what was a beautiful Cleveland pear about 20 feet tall. Two summers ago the ends of the branches started turning black and dying. We contacted an arborist who told us the tree needed to be treated with a chemical during the winter. He also told us the dead ends of the tree need to be removed. He said it was important to clean the blade removing the limbs with alcohol each time a cut was made so as not to spread the disease. We scheduled him to return and he did in the middle of April. He told us the tree looked fine and would check back in May but he never showed. As the summer went on the leaves got black spots on them and many fell to the ground. The limb's black dead end looked like they were getting longer, The tree always looked like it was in need of water. We fertilized it with 10-10-10 and kept it watered. What is the name of my tree's problem? Can I treat this myself? Can this tree be saved?

Jefferson County Kentucky trees and shrubs pear trees cleveland pear

1 Response

I suspect there is a problem with fire blight (a bacterial disease) and leaf spot disease (fungal). Pear trees can be susceptible to both types of disease.

Fire Blight is by far the most destructive of diseases on pear trees. The growing tips brown and curve downward making the stem look burned by fire. The disease is caused by a bacteria and infection depends on particular environmental conditions. Copper Sulfate applied right before conditions are favorable for infection can help control the disease. Correct pruning can also reduce the spread of fire blight. the following link gives plenty of detail for control of this disease:

Leaf spot diseases can easily be controlled by good sanitation and seasonal spraying if necessary.

*Pick up and compost, bury, or burn fallen pear leaves in autumn. Old pear leaves are the main source of overwintering inoculum.
*Provide adequate plant spacing to encourage good sunlight penetration and rapid drying of the foliage.
*Regular seasonal applications of fungicides can be made to prevent infections if leaf spot is severe. Fungicides containing ferbam, ziram, mancozeb (early in the season), or fixed copper compounds should be effective for disease prevention.

While I cannot guaranty the tree's survival, these practices should help you keep the tree disease free.

Feel free to contact our office if you have other questions.

Let me know if I can help you further!

Carol Wilder
Horticulture Technician
Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service
200 Juneau Drive
Louisville KY 40243