An arbutus tree with fungus which causes cankers.

An arbutus tree with fungus which causes cankers.

That sick-looking arbutus may not be

This time of year routinely affects native broad-leaved everygreen

Spring has sprung. The clocks have been reset to give us an extra hour of daylight – possibly getting us outside in the wild a bit more often for a bit longer periods of time.

One of the things you may notice while you’re out in the wonders of nature around the West Shore is fungus, particularly on the arbutus trees around. You may even have a few in your yard you’re wondering or worried about. Many of you are, apparently, as Natural Resources Canada gets a ton of calls this time of year about whether their arbutus trees are sick or dying.

“You can think of your arbutus tree as a salad bar for insects and fungal disease,” says Brenda Callan, a scientist with Natural Resources Canada at the Pacific Forestry Centre on Burnside Road West.

Known elsewhere as the Pacific madrone or madrona, arbutus trees on Vancouver Island are at the northern most extent of their natural range, Callan says, and it doesn’t take much for them to become stressed. They cling to shorelines and rocky areas where they can outgrow Douglas fir, digging their roots into marginal sites, making them more at risk for disease or stress from adverse weather.

This doesn’t mean the sick-looking arbutus on your property is dying, however.

“Arbutus trees always look their worst in spring, before the old spotty and winter-damaged, browned leaves are cast in the summer” says Callan. Arrays of organisms can cause leaf and twig blackening, and arbutuses are especially prone to winter damage.

Over a dozen different leaf spot fungi will cause brown leaves, she says.

“If you look closely, you may find evidence of leaf-mining insects such as windy tracks. That’s where a little burrowing insect has gotten into the leaf and eaten it away.

“Neofusicoccum arbuti, a fungus that occurs naturally in this region, can cause stem and branch cankers and some of the branch dieback,” adds Callan, but normally it only causes disease symptoms when the trees are stressed by other factors such as drought or winter wind damage. A tree heavily affected by this fungus can go into a downward spiral of decline, and in this weakened state, other agents might join in and finish the tree off.

The good news is that by mid-spring the majority of arbutus trees will have healthy green buds. In summer, most of the affected leaves will fall off. Once the old blotchy leaves are gone and the new leaves are fully flushed, most trees will look healthy again.

 

How you can help your arbutus

 

Insects, disease and wildfires thin out older and weaker trees as part of a natural ecosystem process. But homeowners can help their arbutus trees through activities like fertilizing, and pruning dead branches as soon as they are discovered. Callan also recommends avoiding watering foliage to decrease the spread of fungal spores, and gathering fallen leaves in early fall.

If you plant under an arbutus, choose drought resistant plants, as too much watering promotes other organisms that will harm the tree. You should also avoid parking on unpaved areas under arbutus trees as compacted soil may stress the trees.

Trees will also react poorly if they have grown in a protected area and are suddenly exposed to excess sunlight and wind as a result of clearing trees around them.

If you have questions or concerns about the trees in your area, or would like more tips on how you can help keep them healthy, contact Callan at the Pacific Forestry Centre at Brenda.Callan@NRCan-RNCan.gc.ca, call 250-363-0600 or visit nrcan.gc.ca.

mdavies@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Al Kohut, owner of the new photographers GALLERY, checks out Looking Back by David Bradt. The photo printed on canvas is among 50 images featured in the Birds on the Wild Side exhibition showing until July 3. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Photo gallery in Sidney plucks out top bird photos

Birds on the Wild Side show running at the new photographers GALLERY until July 3

A bathtub kitchen garden is part of the lineup for this year’s Teeny Tiny Garden Tour to benefit Victoria Hospice. (Screenshot/Teeny Tiny Garden Tour)
Virtual garden tour for Victoria Hospice features trio of back yards

Online tour is free; calendar purchase and donation options raise money for the cause

The Town of Sidney supports efforts to rename Reay Creek to KELSET, its traditional SENCOTEN name. (Black Press Media file photo)
Town of Sidney signs off on Reay Creek name change to KELSET

Name change does not affect surrounding parkland, but public supports doing so

The Pool at the Esquimalt Rec Centre. (Courtesy of theTownship of Esquimalt/ Facebook)
Esquimalt Rec Centre restarting everyone welcome swim times later this month

The 90-minute sessions will be on select evenings and weekends

Steve Mann and Tim Hackett consider Marigold Lands their finest development. (Rendering courtesy Marigold Lands)
Marigold residences grow more townhouses and condos in Central Saanich

50 condos, 14 townhouses up next for project adjacent to Pat Bay Highway

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read