The Q&A Archives: What are the black dots on my pears and leaves?

Question: I have two different species dwarf pear trees. Each year the trees develop small black spots on the leaves and fruit. Many of the pears are misshaped. They are in full sun in a New England climate. Any suggestions? Thank you

Answer: What you describe sounds like a disease called scab. Symptoms of pear scab are very similar to apple scab. Lesions on leaves and petioles begin as round, brownish spots that eventually become velvety in appearance. Within these lesions conidia are produced. Later in the season, small spots can be observed on the lower surface of the leaves. These are usually the result of late spring or early summer infections. Leaf infection of pear is not as common as apple scab on apple leaves.

Scab lesions on fruit occur on the calyx end and eventually on the sides of the fruit. As these lesions enlarge, they become dark brown and form large black areas as they coalesce. Lesions on immature fruit are small, circular, velvety spots. Darker, pinpoint spots develop as the fruit matures. Infected fruit often become irregular in shape.

Unlike apple scab, twig infections are common with pear scab. Early in the growing season, lesions on young shoots appear as brown, velvety spots. Later, these lesions become corky, canker-like areas. The following spring, pustules will develop within these overwintered lesions. These pustules produce spores (conidia) that perpetuate the spread of the disease.

The fungus overwinters in leaves on the ground and also as mycelium in infected twigs. Infection of pear foliage and fruit occurs under conditions similar to those required for infection of apple by the apple scab fungus. Ascospores are the major source of primary inoculum. Infection occurs in the spring around the green-tip stage of flower bud development. Ascospores in the overwintered leaves are released as the result of rain and are carried by air currents to young leaves and fruit. Ascospores continue to mature over a six to eight week period.

Conidia are the source of secondary inoculum and are produced in either the primary lesions initiated by ascospores or within pustules on infected twigs. Many secondary cycles may occur over a growing season. The length of the wetting period and temperature required for infection depend on the number of hours of continuous wetness and the temperature during this wetting period. Scab lesions may develop in as few as eight days after infection on young leaves and in as many as two months on older leaves. Fruit are also more susceptible when young; however, mature fruit can be infected if the length of wetting period is sufficiently long.

Fungicides that control apple scab will control pear scab, but fewer applications are needed since pear scab seldon is as severe as apple scab. Generally, spray applications should begin when green tissue emerges from buds and should continue as directed on the fungicide label.

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