My very strange pears

Pears have always been pretty easy for me to grow. I did have major fireblight last year that left my trees looking like they’d been hit with a flame thrower, but they survived and even produced good fruit. But this year they look very, very strange and I would like to know if anyone has ever seen anything like this. If so, what should I do about it?
Before you look at the photos, let me describe what is happening since its hard to tell in the photo…
My trees started leafing out pretty much as normal this year. But then the stems on all the leaves just kept growing. TO the point that each leaf has a stem so long that they begin to curl, and each leaf ends up with a very long, curly cue stem attaching it to the tree. Worse yet, these extremely long, curly stems had no structural ability to hold the leaf upright toward the sun as leaves should be. The result is that all the leaves on the tree just hang down at the end of these long, curly stems, making it look like all the leaves are wilted as though the tree had been quickly killed and therefore wilted. But they are not dead, I’m sure. Besides all this, the new growth on the tree has the same phenomenon. Instead of the new growth being pushed out and straight up toward the sun and new growth usually does, that growth also curls itself upward (also shown in photo below).
3 different types of pears are effected: moonglow, Bartlett, and ayers. But evcen my 2 Asian pears have the same problem, though to a lesser extent. All trees are 2-3 years old.
For what its worth, this spring has been rainy beyong belief. Its rained every day for the last 7 days and rained every other day or so before that. Weather has been warm (60’s) to cool (low 50s).
The only possible explanation I can think of is that the trees are to vigerous due to being fertilized last year. I did put about a cup of 10-10-10 around each tree last year. But I did that the year before without this happening.
So, has anyone ever seen anything like this or have I been hit with a real oddity? That would be my luck!! Thanks all.

A single feeding of a cup of triple 10 would not be expected to produce those results. Was it a granular, liquid, or water soluble salt?

Are the weeds in your yard affected like this also? In the pics it seems like the spent dandelion stems have a similar twist. The lack of broadleaf weeds beneath the tree makes me think there might be a 2-4D or similar herbicide problem. If the newest leaves have parallel veins, that’s a positive then. The fert. wasn’t a weed and feed. Please say no. In 30+ years in the lawn care business, this really looks like herbicide damage. I really hope not, really.

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OK, thanks for the great detective work from you both.
I was unclear about fertilize when I said 1 cup. I meant the last time I fertilized at the end of the season was one cup, but I did that probably 3-4 times last year, with the last time being after they went dormant in November. Just so you know, I have since learned better after doing a lot more reading about fertilize and fruit trees, and this year I probably won’t put a single bit of fertilize on my trees. But I still want to know if that’s possibly the cause of this.
These comments take my breath away, so please follow me on this. I do not use any type of weed and feed OR 2-4D, HOWEVER, I did apply a VERY light application of glycol (roundup) to the area around the tree to kill the grass. BUT HANG ON…before you close the case… 1) it truly was a very light application and just a mist (with a hand held sprayer). It is also important to note that I have done this for the last 3 years and never had this effect. I definitely could have got a tiny bit on the bark but am 99% sure I didn’t get it on any leaves. ALSO…and this is a big hole in this theory…I actually didn’t spray glycol on or near the Asian pears but the seem to have the same issues, though admittedly to a much, much less extent. SO now I just don’t know! I’m sure a lot of you say the glycol got me and it may have, but I’m a bit doubtful for the reasons listed (past use without problems, existence of same but milder symptoms on unsprayed trees, etc.). But obviously I just don’t know. Sure is a strange problem…looking forward to more sherlocks! thanks

So was the fertilizer a granular, liquid, or water soluble salt?

You were careful enough that I’m pretty sure it was not caused by the roundup. I’m thinking that some of the others who have long term experience with fruit trees might have had this issue before. I would like to know the cause so as to avoid it later. Good luck, Bill

Herbicides, was my first thought. It is easy to become careless especially if the first two applications had no any adverse effects. Mist can be easily spread by the light wind. This is the lesson for me too because I never thought that the big tree can be affected like this. Is it possible that you messed up with the concentration of Roundup? I do hope the trees will survive.

The fertilize was granular. Just the plain, old fashioned, basic garden fertilize. I said 10-10-10 but it could have been 15-15-15. I know there is a pretty big difference, but I know I had a bag of trip 15 at one point last year. And as I said, I applied it about 3-4 times last year at about 1 cup per application. I already know better than do it again, but am wondering if that would explain it.
I was really careful with the glycol/roundup, but of course anything is possible. I also used it this year very earl (around bud break time) which I’d never done. Perhaps trees are more vulnerable then?
But here is the thing…I could see the glycol being the problem if my plants were stunted, or turning yellow, or wilting, or otherwise showing a lack of growth. But what is happening here seems to be extreme growth…too much growth. Of course the strange part is that the growth seems to all be in the leaf stems which are so long they curl and can’t hold the leaf up, but they are growing fast.
I’ve Googled for hours and never seen anything like this. Leave it to me to get hit by such a freakish, unknown mystery. Anyone else got any ideas? THanks.

I don’t think it was the fertilizer. Granulars release at a moderate rate. The dosage you provided was also moderate: 4 cups / year => about 2 lbs total => 0.2 to 0.3 net lbs of Nitrogen / year. That’s ideal for a young tree.

Wow, cityman, that’s some crazy growth. Hope someone solves the puzzle. Whatever they’ve got, keep it up there! :wink:

I would also suspect herbicide. I have seen all sorts of unusual effects from it. Often the wind carries it, even the neighbors’ lawn treatment on a windy day could have caused this.


I got something like that once. I sprayed round up along the fence line and my peach tree got real droppy leaves and I thought it was a gonner but the following year the leaves came back normal. Just think of your tree like a oramental trees for this season. I also think when you get more sun the leaves will become firmer and less droppy look.


This looks like 2,4-D damage.

From wikipedia: 2,4-D is a synthetic auxin, which is a class of plant hormones. It is absorbed through the leaves and is translocated to the meristems of the plant. Uncontrolled, unsustainable growth ensues, causing stem curl-over, leaf withering, and eventual plant death.

Looks like a wheat field in the background, you probably got some drift.

Agree with tiger. The twisting is typical of 2,4-D type herbicide damage. Check the wheat field and see if the broadleaf weeds are similarly affected.

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Amasing!! A tree can grow like this just a small amount of herbicide.

Relax. That’s not roundup damage. I too spray the base of my trees w/roundup. It only damages green tissue. Symptoms of roundup damage are the plant wilts, goes off color, then turns yellow, and dies. With the ag field in the background, spray drift would be my first thought. In mild, wet growing conditions it takes minute amounts of 2-4D to cause plant symptoms. All depends on the dose now. If the growing points die, the tree probably will not winter. If the gp stays green, you’ll have a chance. You’ll know next spring how severe the damage is. Speaking of severe, that’s the kind of a talk I’d be having with a farmer or a neighbor’s lawn care co. Best, Chikn

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Very good advice.

I agree, although very light overspray of glyphosate (e.g., roundup) will typically not kill a tree. It will instead have symptoms of leaf-edge burn.

Wow, you have had bad luck this year! Thanks for posting this, you learn something every day!


I share your pain. Definitely herbicide damage. My home orchard is next to a field that is rented out
for corn/soybeans. A few springs ago I was in the orchard and all looked well. I returned 3 days later and found the same symptoms your pictures show.

My grapes and fruit trees got hit. Those closest to the field were the worst. I found out the farmer
who rented the field sprayed herbicide a few days earlier. That day was windy and based on the
wind direction that day made sense why one side of the trees more damaged than others.

My pears aborted all their fruits but came out of the damage later in the season. My seedless grapes struggled for 2 years then one died. The other came out of it. Oddly the Concord grapes
had little damage and looked fine a month later.

Definitely looks like 2-4-D or other herbicide damage from your photos.

European grapes are very sensitive to 2,4-D. One whiff is typically all it takes.

I have a pesticide applicators license which I’ve retained from my nursery business. The farmer that oversprayed violated 2 counts of the federal code: buffer zone, wind.