Q: I heard rust fungus can infect junipers but they aren’t worth spraying to treat. Is there anything else I can do to reduce the fungal spread from them to my other trees?
A: If you see and can reach fungal galls on the branches, clip them off. Some rust fungi (though not all) create a gall on their juniper hosts. Plant galls are tumor-like in that they’re clusters of malformed tissue, often in response to a pest or (in this case) an infection. When the weather starts to be consistently mild in spring and we receive enough rainfall, the galls where the fungus is spending the winter will begin to exude their spores.
These rust spores blow on the wind or wind-driven rain to vulnerable host plants like various members of the rose family. In our gardens, this includes apples and pears, hawthorn, serviceberry, quince, and crabapple. Fungus spores are extremely tiny, so how will you know what to look for? If the gall is producing orange goo, you’re missing the window since spores are already being dispersed. Ideally, remove all visible galls before this point, while they’re still hard and dry. Now is an excellent time to inspect junipers on your property for galls. Trim them off with hand pruners and toss them in the trash (don’t compost).
This is not a foolproof method for eliminating the risk of rust infection on other plants this year, but it certainly could help reduce the disease pressure. Fortunately, infections like cedar-apple rust, while an aesthetic nuisance from time to time, generally don’t cause serious damage to all hosts, though they can be more serious for some, like apple.
Find photos and more information about Rust Diseases of Trees on the Home and Garden Information Center website.
By Miri Talabac, Horticulturist, University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center. Miri writes the Garden Q&A for The Baltimore Sun and Washington Gardener Magazine. Read more by Miri.
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