Fire Blight Confirmation or Other Bad Thing?


Here are a few photos of what, I’m guessing from interweb images, is Fire Blight. No leaves are affected, yet. The branches are drooping, which may have encouraged fruit formation, though there are a couple other branches with fruit as well. Cutting 8" below the affected area is basically cutting off half the tree, which I probably should have done on ‘day one’ anyway, but this was my very first fruit tree and I knew even less then than I do now. There are some groovy grafts in this half and even a fruiting crabapple branch from a NoID tree I saw in town one day…oh well. If this is serious and it looks like it is = gotta go, eh? This was a big box store purchase and I have no idea what root stock may be involved.
The two close-ups show both sides of the same area, and the two other pix show the affected branch from both sides. One higher branch is even drooping. At the bottom of the lesion we’re looking at bare wood.

Problem Apple B 6603

Problem Apple B 6606


Fireblight spreads quite rapidly, so if it’s not expanding day to day it’s probably not blight.

A canker of some kind, maybe?


Well, I wondered about that 'cuz it’s changing/growing, but very slowly. There is still the issue of sawing off the limb, but maybe just taking a chunk of the trunk with the one branch attached would be OK. That’s severe but not as bad as removing the half-tree. I’ll see if I get other responses, and maybe start with just taking the area. Thanks!


Was that limb t-budded?


It looks like an fb canker to me. Those don’t really move much. I have had very little luck with cutting out infected bark but leaving the leader when the FB is in the leader. I think you have to cut that leader off down a foot or so below the canker. I’d take off that entire leader and go with a single leader tree. Save your grafts by cutting them off and regrafting onto the remaining tree. I did just that a couple weeks ago due to fb, and my grafts are growing already and it has been in the 90s most days here. I grafted current year growth onto the same, selecting shoots with buds visible at leaf nodes and using a cleft graft and wrapping the scion in parafilm tape, but im sure thats not the only way. I did put some row cover over the tree for a little shade.


It looks kinda like a bud ‘graft’ but I’m pretty sure that it isn’t. I think I tried two of those somewhere and neither took. Even so, it seems like if this was a budding attempt it would be considered contaminated, terminally so, no?


Wow…that’s pretty cool. I think I’d better chop that part of the tree…most folks would have advised that at the beginning anyway. One reason my rebel self sometimes goes against the grain in situations like that is because what if something bad happened to one half the tree, eh?
We are heading into our hottest week yet…might hit 90°. What if the grafted parts are already contaminated? There is one graft showing in the second close-up…I wouldn’t want to transfer that back to the other leader. Sounds dangerous.


I usually remove those completely but sometimes they are in a critical spot on the tree (e.g. on the main trunk) in which case I just leave it. Often the tree will recover in that case, and sometimes the whole tree will die.


I should qualify my previous statement by pointing out that I have never actually had a tree die from fb canker. What happens is I try to scrape it out leaving the leader in tact. It will look ok for a while even up to a year, then start to come back with oozing etc. So I cut my losses by cutting the tree down and starting over. So maybe I’d still have my original trees if I’d left them alone who knows.

You could cut back to your lowest branch and have that serve as your refuge for possibly contaminated scion. That way if new grafts start to show fb you can then cut that branch or entire leader and still have a single leader tree. I think your scion will be ok if you can stay some distance from the canker. I’d recommend grafting in the evening and ideally wait for some cloudy days if that is even possible in your location

Or do like Scott and roll the dice. He has way more experience than I do. Either way I’d be curious how it turns out. This situation has happened to every apple tree I have planted this far, grrr.


Yikes, I hope this isn’t the norm for my apple trees. I guess FB isn’t all that big of a problem in Orygun. One thing related to that is that I don’t want to be a local source of FB for my mini-orchard, or anyone’s nearby. Since this is on a ‘second leader’ and is quite a ways from the ultimate cut-off point near the bottom of the tree I could maybe experiment with it a bit, waiting, and maybe lopping off parts as needed. The contamination aspect sounds risky but that has been a built-in part of your approach, too, Scott, eh?


If you are going to keep it as-is I would consider painting it just to keep it from re-activating and spreading. That is one case where I use the black tar tree paint.


Excellent. I am a shellac guy myself, not on tree wounds (yet) but in general woodworking. (Pro Tip: nothing looks as good on wood as real Tung oil and home-made shellac.) It is alcohol based (disinfectant) and is a flexible sealer that is so good it is used in fire (etc.) restoration work in houses 'cuz even the odors don’t get through. Also, it’s something I already have. I was wondering about the sealing issue last night and it is something I can do now, while pondering the next move. This forum, thanks to you, is super helpful.


I had not researched this before. I found these pages from way back when I went looking for info on shellac and tree wounds. Several consecutive pages describe a couple experiments with shellac and other sealants…specifically on apples trees. There is some variation in how trees react these treatments.


FYI as I looked a little further I found other references to shellac being better than other sealants in some cases. It has a shelf life so it may not be a good investment considering that ‘no sealant’ is the norm. I have shellac flakes and ethanol for wood finishing so easy peasy.
I cut off the droopy branches and a couple tainted little twiggies but kept the main branch for now. Didn’t lose any major grafts that way. Kinda butchered the job…oh, well.

GEDC6617 b s