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Bacterial leaf scorch is being exploited by opportunists. These two people avoided becoming victims.

Mrs. H and Mr. M from yesterday’s story have something else in common besides being surprised to find out the trees at their new houses had problems. Both Mrs. H’s red oak and Mr. Ms pin oak have foliage that shows scorch symptoms. Both could possibly be infected with bacterial leaf scorch (B.L.S.) (Xylella).

I think the causes of the bad appearance of the leaves on Mr. M’s tree are primarily abiotic – caused by environmental conditions rather than disease. Mrs. H’s looks like bacterial leaf scorch. But there is no way to tell for sure without a lab test. Bacterial leaf scorch can’t be cured. But BLS alone does not normally kill trees, at least not quickly. We’ve only been able to reliably diagnose bacterial leaf scorch for about the last 20 years, and we still have more questions than answers about it.

But it’s been in the news a lot lately, and the news sensationalization of it has helped fuel a minor epidemic of fear.

Both Mrs. H and Mr. M solicited the help of other tree service companies besides mine. Interestingly, both told me similar stories about their experiences. Each was advised by at least one company that their trees were diseased and should be immediately removed. And each had a company advise them to inject antibiotics into their diseased trees. None of these companies suggested testing to find out if the trees actually had bacterial leaf scorch! YOU CANNOT, WITH CERTAINTY, DIAGNOSE BACTERIAL LEAF SCORCH WITHOUT A LAB TEST!

I have a hunch that the companies that suggested removing the trees make a lot of their profit by removing trees. And the ones who offer to inject them with antibiotics when they are symptomatic at the end of the growing season make a lot of their profit by selling snake oil pills. Neither of these suggested actions is in the best interest of the trees or their owners.


Tomorrow I’ll share some case studies that will support my opinion that bacterial leaf scorch is not a death sentence. I have been watching some cases for close to 20 years!

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