Rake your leaves for healthier trees

by | Nov 8, 2017

Fall in North Carolina is a beautiful sight.  With red maple, ginkgo, and redbud among the many colorful trees in our state, the diverse forests of North Carolina are a sight to behold each autumn season.  You may not be feeling all the “warm fuzzies” for the fall season if you’re the one responsible for raking the fallen leaves in the yard though.  For you, the fall season might look like work!  But it’s work that not only keeps you off your HOA’s naughty list, but could help prevent tree disease next year.

Anthracnose is the name given to a group of common fungal diseases of trees.  It causes lesions on leaves, stems, and fruit of many species of hardwood trees and are commonly named for the trees which they infect.  In N.C., the most common anthracnose diseases are sycamore anthracnose, maple anthracnose, oak anthracnose, and dogwood spot anthracnose.  Ash and walnut are also commonly infected.

Rake  Anthracnose disease lesions often appear along the veins of the leaf (sycamore anthracnose, left). When a tree is heavily infected, the entire canopy can look unhealthy, though it typically is cosmetic damage (oak anthracnose, right). Images: Clemson University, USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org (left); J. O’Brien, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

When these lesions appear on trees, undeniably it doesn’t look great.  Even though anthracnose diseases are typically only a cosmetic concern and shouldn’t raise anxiety with long-term tree health, the aesthetic loss of landscape trees often bothers homeowners. Sometimes, anthracnose can flare up and make trees look as if they’re dying, adding to a homeowner’s worry.

Luckily, there are easy ways to reduce this common disease.  One of the best ways to reduce anthracnose bothering your tree year after year is to do your yardwork each fall.  Raking and destroying anthracnose-infected leaves will reduce the fungal contamination on your tree the following spring.  It also helps to properly prune trees, as this will increase airflow in the tree canopy and reduce environmental conditions for fungal growth.  In severe cases, fungicides can be applied and may be helpful in reducing anthracnose, keeping your trees nice and green.

So, try not to focus on raking leaves as a chore, but rather a service to keep your trees nice and beautiful.