Young Bartlett Pear with Black Leaves

Asked September 12, 2020, 11:31 AM EDT

My young Bartlett pear tree has blackened leaves. The ones on the ground have turned completely black. The leaves don't seem puckered like in some pictures I've seen. The fruit doesn't seem affected, except two pears have fallen off. The tree is in full sun. Recently it has new growth at the top and even a sprig of blossoms. I discarded all the leaves I could find. I don't want to use chemicals to combat the disease, but I am happy to be vigilant about removing diseased leaves. Thanks so much! Kathy Woodall

Frederick County Maryland

1 Response

Hi- this is not a disease, but a stress response. Your tree looks relatively healthy but it's best to strip off all flowers and fruits from a European pear tree for the first 3-4 years (full-size) or 2-3 years (dwarf). This allows the tree to establish a strong root system.

Keep the tree well-watered through any dry periods this fall. You may also want to remove turf and weeds from around the trunk and replace it with a 2-inch layer of organic mulch, like shredded pine bark.

In spring you may see more of this leaf blackening and leaf drop in late spring- a symptom of the tree's root system not able to fully support the new top growth. Even healthy mature trees may shed leaves this way when faced with minor or major environmental stressors like drought, temperature extremes, root constriction, etc.