Huge Fireblight Strike- Can I Save This Tree?

Huge fireblight strike on 7 year old Kentucky Limbertwig apple on G 30: A four inch sunken blight canker on the underside of the right scaffold branch where it meets the trunk plus about 180 degrees of trunk circumference is blackened but possibly no canker on the trunk proper.

If I carve off the canker and all the black is there a chance to save the tree? Surprised blight got into such old wood. Looks like toast doesn’t it?

Thanks for ideas.

I’m not a fan of the taste of Kentucky Limbertwig but now it belongs to my friend and she wants to save it. This variety has been Typhoid Mary here-it’s surrounded by hundreds of Callery pear volunteers, probably source of blight although nearby Keener Seedling, Black Limbertwig, Caney Fork Limbertwig and Paducah are pretty clean.


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That looks pretty dismal. Especially 180 degrees on the trunk.

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If one of the lower limbs is below the damage you could cut out the top and turn the limb upward attaching a heavy support. It still might not survive but you don’t know unless you try.


Interesting idea to turn branch into leader.

I wonder how far the blight has run down the trunk inside the tree below the black? Isn’t this crazy how it got such a foothold in older wood?

Maybe cut the whole top off at an angle about 4 inches above ground and bark graft to a much better variety. It has a nice root system. I’ve got the idea Ken LT will have blight problems forever at this site. Last year had to cut the top 1/3 out of the tree. This is why Enterprise, Freedom look better every day.

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Great idea grafting a more resistant variety especially if your not trying to save the original.

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Once it gets in the trunk, it’s toast.

@rayrose Please expand. Do you mean blight extends inside the trunk a lot lower than the black? Like into the roots? Maybe I can saw below any discoloration in the heartwood. As I understand it blight goes no farther than the discoloration in heartwood. So if cut down to clean wood, should be ok, yes?

Often when it gets into the lower trunk it also gets into the roots and kills the tree. That said, I have had trees with damage like that which recovered and prospered.

Overall, I would agree that it looks like top work time for that tree. Three strikes and you are out.


Thanks Scott. G 30 is “supposed” to resist blight so I’ll try some bark grafts down low.

Blight is different everywhere but here Kentucky Limbertwig goes on the Never Again list.

Even if you lop off the diseased portion and top graft a resistant variety, you’ll still have a pretty susceptible variety as your interstem if it doesn’t do well in your area.

From what I’ve seen, if the blight reaches the trunk, the tree is gone regardless of how much you chop off.

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@Martin Yes, agree on disease prone interstem. Thanks for your perspective. Think I will lop and bark graft under the “nothing to lose” approach. Willing to put in a bit of time and then monitor. Will report back on how it does.

Sounds like it’s now critical to top graft a really blight resistant scion to keep blight away from the susceptible interstem. Liberty, Enterprise or take a flyer on Hunge or recently rediscovered Kittageskee that had a reputation for blight resistance. Roll the dice!

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I think I would bleach the trunk before I cut it, and maybe after the cut too.
I have seen big blight strikes like that on trunks. That just stop all on their own, but I would not count on it.
That needs cut out

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Thanks @Hillbillyhort . Straight bleach or say 10%? Bleach cut surface too?

I would try 10% on both ,
Maybe wait 20 minutes then cut another inch off for your graft ?
Could be a little bleach damage to the cut surface,?
( bleach maybe better than blight ?)

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I am told splendour has the best fire blight resistance but I just recently bought that Scion wood that looks questionable.

Yes a former neighbor of mine tested blight resistance for the USDA and he also said Splendor stood above the rest.

It’s probably safer for the tree if you spray with streptomycin instead of bleach.


Blight Canker Question:

Does a canker near the base of a limb mean that the entire limb above the canker is infected with blight?

For some reason I had the idea that cankers were self contained and could if small enough be shaved off, saving the branch.

With fire blight , the living bacteria is mostly at the edge of a canker , in the cambium bark layer ,not in the wood or branch above.
So yes ,if you can scrape /cut out, back to healthy wood, with out reinfection , in theory it can be eradicated.
The problem being, it usually enters through a wound, the act of cutting it out creates new wounds, and your tools become carriers of the bacteria , so that’s why I recommended lots of bleach ( or other sanitizer) on tools and cuts before and after.

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So- if I see a blight canker in the middle of a scaffold branch, the right thing to do is:

  1. Shave off the canker down to clean wood, disinfect and I’m done? OR
  2. Saw off the branch just below the canker?

Where does the blight in the canker come from? From the air straight to the canker site OR does it enter the tip of the branch and travel inside the branch all the way to the canker site and then erupt? If I knew the answer to that I’d know what to do.

Many times I see no evidence of blight on the branch above the canker. Thanks.

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