Pear Trees Across New York Area Under Attack By Hard-To-Control ‘Trellis Rust’

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Trees are under attack by a hard-to-control fungus that’s been making the rounds, wiping out beautiful street and backyard pear trees across the area.

“You can see it’s all over the ground, every day, it’s all over,” Robert Somerville told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

Pear tree leaves in front of Somerville’s Rockville Centre home are dropping by the hundreds — the bark is covered with a greenish-yellow fungus.

“It’s sad, it’s sad,” he said.

The telltale signs of trellis rust have been decimating pear trees across Long Island and New York City. In Rockville Centre the September streetscape looks like winter. The lush canopy of trees that residents cherish is in jeopardy.

“It’s all over the village. All these pear trees are dying on the streets as well as private property,” Ray Hampel said. “Obviously it really hurts the way the town looks and you can see how barren it looks.”

Borne from a damp spring and spread through the air, the fungus is attacking tens of thousands of ornamental trees that communities began planting a half-century ago. The Bradford pear was once considered the perfect street tree for its early and gorgeous white blooms and compact size.

“Up until now it didn’t have too many pest and disease problems, but this is something we see time and time again — when you plant something en masse and then you have a disease, you have a widespread problem,” Old Westbury Gardens Horticulture Expert, Maura Bush said.

Senator Todd Kaminsky (D-Rockville Centre) will be asking New York State for grants to help hard hit villages plant new trees.

“They are widespread and they are really gone and the answer is to replace them which is a very expensive venture,” he said. “Trees help make Long Island what it is, and the difficult thing is that you can’t stop this.”

The citizen run Rockville Centre Conservancy is looking into the mass removal of the blighted trees and replanting to save money.

Experts at Cornell Coop Extension caution against doing anything hastily. It’s possible some of the dead looking trees will come back next spring, and should be individually evaluated.

Experts said pruning out the diseased limbs in the early winter could extend the life of an afflicted tree. Fungicides are expensive and not always effective.



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