Over the last two weeks I’ve observed two young Pixie Crunch apple trees in our orchard succumbing to cedar-apple rust. Or so I suspect.
I’m no plant pathology expert. And I’m an eager but admittedly amateur pomologist. So my hypothesis that dread cedar-apple rust has infiltrated Rosslyn’s orchard may be premature and far off target. (Do you detect my optimism?) Perhaps one of my astute readers will be able to help sort this one out.
July delivered the heaviest pressure from Japanese beetles that we have experienced since arriving in Essex, and some of the fruit trees have been largely defoliated by the hungry visitors. (The iridescent buggers are especially fond of stone fruit.) But they don’t seem to be the culprits in the case of the colorfully mottled apple trees.
It’s worth noting that the Pixie Crunch are the only apple trees affected. I plant a diverse mix of fruit trees with usually no more than a couple of each individual variety. This seems to be a blessing because none of the other orchard trees appear to be affected. So far.
It’s also worth noting that the affliction doesn’t seem to kill the trees. It damages the lower leaves but allows new growth higher on the trees. While it is possible that the blight is slowly advancing upward, it does not appear to have spread further up the trees, only to have become more pronounced on the lower portions.
I’m hoping that the condition is not terminal, that it will not spread to other trees in the orchard, and – this is my my most ambitious pipe dream – that I’ve misdiagnosed the affliction as cedar-apple rust. After all, it is actually quite a beautiful coloring. Multicolored polka-dots, yellows and oranges against summer green. A new fashion trend?
But Pollyanna fancies aside, I’d like to identify it as soon as possible so that I can attempt to treat it so that the apple trees can recover and focus their energy on new growth instead of combating the disease. Or, worst case scenario, if it turns out to be something that is slowly killing the trees (and may infect other apple trees,) I’m inclined to remove the Pixie Crunch trees now and replace them this fall.
I welcome your feedback, and I will do my best to keep you posted as I learn more and try to resolve the problem.
So what do you think? Cedar-apple rust? Something else? Although I dread admitting it, I’m fairly convinced that we’re battling a light invasion of cedar-apple rust which has undoubtedly evolved quite happily, unimpeded in the old meadows, volleying back and forth between the native cedars and old abandoned apple trees.
To brace myself, I’m digging into the nitty-gritty details. Anticipate a more in-depth look at cedar-apple rust soon as it appears the most likely suspect, especially since we have several Eastern Red Cedars (Juniperus virginiana) nearby upon which I’ve frequently witnessed (and photographed) the telltale galls…