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.