Diseases Affecting the Beech Tree

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Diseases Affecting the Beech Tree
Healthy beeches produce a full canopy of leaves. (purple beech tree image by Karen Hadley from Fotolia.com)

Slow-growing deciduous trees, beeches grow primarily in the eastern part of the United States. Beeches live up to 400 years and reach heights of 50 feet or more over their long lifespan. Serious diseases rarely kill beeches or cause extensive damage, though they may impact the appearance and beauty of the trees.

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Bleeding Canker

Bleeding canker forms dark spots on beech trunks that produce a sticky substance that resembles blood. The cankers inhibit top growth on the tree. Leaves yellow and die off, which may eventually lead to branch death. If too many branches die, the entire tree is affected. Too much nitrogen in the soil causes these cankers to form and thrive on the tree, particularly in beeches already infected with the disease.

Beech Bark Disease

Beech scale insects and the fungus Cryptococcus fagisuga infect trees with beech bark disease. The fungus attacks the wounds caused by the feeding scale insects. One of the few fatal beech diseases, beech bark disease kills the bark and leads to the death of the tree. Controlling scale insects is the only way to prevent the spread of the disease.


Powdery mildew affects the leaves of beech trees, causing a white or grey powdery fungal growth on the foliage. While seldom fatal, the discoloured leaves die and the entire appearance of the tree is affected. Mildew thrives in cool moist conditions and is more common in late summer and early fall, in years when there is plenty of rainfall and cooler temperatures. A powdery mildew infection resolves itself once the leaves fall from the trees, as it doesn't survive the freezing temperatures of winter or the heat of summer.

Branch Cankers

Cankers, similar to bleeding canker, may form on branches in the beech's canopy. Rarely fatal to the entire tree, these cankers may girdle and kill off the infected branch. Cankers may spread to healthy branches if left untreated. While the cankers are more unsightly than damaging, pruning away infected branches improves the appearance of the beech and prevents the spread of the disease.

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