Snapshot: Majestic trees at the mercy of tiny fungus

London Planes

The London Plane in the foreground has barely leafed out, while two across the street are faring slightly better.

By Len Maniace

The London Plane tree in front of my house doesn’t look good at all – and the two across the street, only slightly better. My tree, which was planted about three years ago, has just a few small leaves. The trees across the street have many branches that have not leafed out.

The cause appears to be anthracnose, an infectious fungal disease that causes young leaves to wilt and die. Usually the tree will leaf out a second time and by mid-summer the tree may look normal, though some twigs may die back eight to 10 inches. Repeated infections however can weaken the trees and kill them. With three successive infections, each worse than its predecessor, the tree in front of my house may have gone beyond the point of no return. And if that’s the case, are the  neighboring trees far behind.

It’s a shame, and not just because these trees are on my block.
The London Plane (Platanus acerifolia,) may be the most majestic tree to make its home in New York City. They can grow huge, and their peeling, mottled bark can have shades of beige, avocado and grayish-brown. They look great in parks and as street trees.

Anthracnose infections can be treated with chemical sprays, but in heavily populated that’s not practical because they can be  hazardous. The weather can affect anthracnose; cool damp springs can worsen infections.

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation is planting anthracnose-resistant varieties of London Planes. That was not enough to protect the recently planted trees on my block, which belonged to one such variety, Bloodgood.  But as one park staffer told me last year, anthracnose-resistant does not mean anthracnose-proof.

About lenmaniace

Award-winning writer and editor who has worked as a journalist and a corporate communications professional specializing in environmental sustainability and public health policy. Experience includes successful media outreach for a Manhattan publicity firm. Board member and president of a community-based nonprofit. Founder and leader of a series of successful park, art and environmental programs in Jackson Heights, Queens, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the nation’s most diverse city. * Executive Editor at Elsevier, a leading scientific and medical publisher. * Publicist, Media Advisor, Social Media Manager (part-time) at Monteiro & Co., a book-marketing company that specializes in business management, economics and politics. * Reporter (part-time) at the New York Post, specializing in breaking news in the world’s most competitive media market. * Senior Writer and Editor at The Journal News/, Gannett’s daily news outlet in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties. Specialized in health policy and environmental sustainability issues * President the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, a volunteer nonprofit civic organization in Queens, N.Y. Leader of its innovative environmental sustainability programs, including the Green Agenda for Jackson Heights.
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