Does my tree have fire blight and what should I do about it?

Asked April 19, 2017, 8:48 PM EDT

Hello, I recently had a landscape company take a look at an apple tree in the back yard of my new home. I was told the tree is in "bad shape" from fire blight. Do you agree with this diagnosis? Most of the tree already has leaves on it. Some of the large branches still have yet to bloom although they look like they may have buds on them. If the tree does, in fact have fire blight, I'd like to get it pruned asap. Do you recommend waiting until winter for pruning? I'm worried about the disease spreading. Also, is it possible this disease could kill the tree?

Thanks for your help.

Denver County Colorado

1 Response

Fireblight is a common bacterial infection of Apple trees. It is characterized by branch tips curling over (like a shepherd's crook) and brown still-attached leaves along the stem which is distinctly dark where the canker has infected it.

The 2d photo you sent looks like fireblight; it's harder to say from looking at the 1st and 3rd photos. There is often a bacterial ooze associated with fireblight that would not be present if the dieback were from a different cause so, if the opinion you got was from a licensed, certified arborist, I think you are safe accepting their diagnosis.

Regardless, all your photos show a lot of dieback which warrants a good pruning by a professional - if it can be done so that the tree is still balanced and aesthetically pleasing afterwards.

Pruning during the dormant season reduces the need to disinfect tools between pruning cuts, but so long as the arborist is following industry-standard precautions to avoid spreading the disease, you should follow their recommendation.