Fig trees, commonly associated with the Mediterranean region but likely native to Asia, are grown for their fruit and ornamental value. However, a number of diseases affect these plants. Fig trees that are well sited and cared for properly are less likely to suffer severe damage caused by pests or disease. Disease presence varies depending on local climate. Consult a local extension service or expert for pertinent information about current, local disease problems.
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Fig rust, caused by the fungal pathogen Physopella fici, first appears as small, rust-coloured leaf spots, which multiply and enlarge throughout the season. Rust causes complete defoliation but typically only affects the fruit of late-ripening varieties. Control rust with one or two applications of neutral copper sprays in May or early June.
The fig mosaic virus causes yellow leaf mottling. Some fig trees exhibit malformed or dwarfed leaves, and fruits. Premature leaf and fruit drop may occur. The virus likely spreads by a mite, as well as from the use of infected vegetative cuttings. There is no chemical control for the virus, but horticultural oils controls the mites.
Aerial or web blights cause infected trees to develop yellow or brownish, water-soaked leaves. The upper leaf surface turns silvery, while the leaf underside becomes covered with the brown, weblike fungus. The leaves eventually die, but the fungal fruiting body persists in the area for long periods. Removing fallen, diseased leaves, pruning the plant for greater air circulation and avoiding getting leaves wet when irrigating controls this disease.
Anthracnose, caused by the Colletotrichum gloeosporoides fungus, affects both fruit and leaves. Leaves develop sunken spots with brown edges. The leaf eventually turn browns and drops. Fruit develops small, sunken areas that gradually expand and have pink spore masses in the middle. Removing fallen leaves and fruit controls anthracnose.
Mushroom Root Rot
A tree infected by mushroom root rot rapidly wilts and dries out. Single or all trunks may die. These symptoms typically appear during hot weather when the fig has a high water demand. The fungal pathogen enters the tree roots and girdles the trunk at the soil line. Confirm the presence of this rot by peeling back slivers of bark at the soil line. The fungus appears as a creamy-white layer under the bark. Use proper cultural practices to maintain tree vigour. Completely remove any dead trees, including roots and adjacent soil, and do not replant figs in the area, as the fungus persists in the soil.
Cercospora Leaf Spot
A Cercospori fungus infection creates angular, reddish-brown leaf spots that eventually enlarge and develop a tan centre surrounded by a yellowish halo. Disease progression is rapid during summer rainy periods. Remove fallen leaves, prune interior branches to improve circulation and avoid wetting leaves when watering.
Stem Gall and Cankers
Various fungi and bacteria invade plant tissue through wounds and cause galls, abnormal growths or swellings on the trunk, twigs and leaves, or stem cankers. Fungal pathogens eventually produce spores on the galls. Prune and destroy any infected tissue promptly. Avoid galls and cankers by preventing mechanical damage or sunscald to the tree.
Pink Limb Blight
A fungus that produces a pale-pink substance that encircles the limbs and trunk causes pink limb blight. The infected portion of the tree dies. Any affected tissue should be removed and destroyed promptly.
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- AgriLife Extension Texas A&M; System; Home Fruit Production - Figs; Calvin G. Lyons, et al.
- California Rare Fruit Growers; Fig; 1996
- University of Florida IFAS Extension; Florida Plant Disease Management Guide: Fig; Aaron J. Palmateer, et al.; June 1999
- "Diseases of Temperate Zone Tree Fruit and Nut Crops"; Joseph M. Ogawa and Harley English; 1991