Our beech trees have disease. What are the recommendations for managing the diseased trees?


We are struggling with Beech Tree disease. I’m not too worried about the little trees because we were going to high stump them in July anyway, but there is a very large one over the house that looks to be impacted as well and I’m wondering how quickly we need to get the arborist here to take it down. Also, we wondered if it’s okay to burn the wood afterwards or if that will spread the disease further. I suspect it’s probably fine but wanted to check in. It seemed to be a big mast year for beech nuts (most we’ve seen in the 10 years we’ve been in this house). They leafed out with gigantic leaves, and then a whole bunch of leaves dropped, and now they are all shriveled and diseased looking. We have an awful lot of beach here, have been slowly creating sunspots and planting other species, but we just got hit hard and you can see them all up and down our street looking the same way.


Jonathan Foster, Home Horticulture Outreach Professional

I’m afraid the photos you included look worryingly like Beech Leaf Disease (see the Maine Forest Service page and the Penn State Univ Extension page for more information and photos)–the streaky bands on the leaves and the wiltiness are very common indicators. Having said that, you’ll see above that there are a few look-alike conditions, but the photos and descriptions should help you rule them in or out. As it happens, I just spoke to the Maine Forest Service about the burning issue, and it is in fact the current recommended method of disposing of BLD infected beeches (moving the debris from your property is heavily discouraged for fear of spreading the pathogen). Tragically, there is currently no good treatment for the disease, other than pruning out infected sections for mitigation.

As for the tree near your house, if the symptoms have only just begun and aren’t yet widespread, I would say it’s probably not an emergency to get an arborist out to evaluate it. Having said that, it is very unlikely the tree will recover if it is in fact BLD, it will continue to weaken with diminished foliage, and (especially with the storms we had last winter) will be at risk of falling at some point. I would feel more confident if a ME-licensed arborist on-site said it didn’t need to come out yet.

As always, our diagnoses by photo are tentative by nature. If you remain concerned or want complete confirmation, please consider sending further photos or a physical sample to the UMaine Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab –there is a small fee for their service, but lab verification would be far more reliable.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but know that plant scientists are working hard around the country to combat the disease.