What is Dogwood Anthracnose?

Dogwood anthracnose is a fungal disease that affects dogwood trees, particularly the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). It is caused by the pathogen Discula destructiva, which can cause severe damage to the tree if left untreated. This disease is most prevalent in the eastern United States, where dogwoods are commonly found in forests and landscapes.

Symptoms of Dogwood Anthracnose

The symptoms of dogwood anthracnose can vary depending on the severity of the infection. In mild cases, the disease may only cause minor leaf spotting and discoloration. However, in more severe cases, the disease can lead to defoliation, dieback of branches, and even death of the tree.

One of the most common symptoms of dogwood anthracnose is the appearance of small, purple-bordered leaf spots. These spots may enlarge and develop a tan or gray center over time. Infected leaves may also exhibit marginal leaf scorch, where the edges of the leaves turn brown and dry out.

Life Cycle of the Pathogen

The pathogen Discula destructiva overwinters in infected twigs and fallen leaves. In the spring, spores are released from these infected plant parts and are spread by wind and rain to healthy dogwood trees. The spores can enter the tree through wounds or natural openings, such as stomata on the leaves.

Once inside the tree, the pathogen colonizes the vascular system, causing damage to the xylem and phloem tissues. This disrupts the flow of water and nutrients within the tree, leading to wilting, leaf drop, and dieback of branches.

Factors Contributing to Dogwood Anthracnose

Several factors can contribute to the development and spread of dogwood anthracnose. These include:

  • Poor tree health: Dogwoods that are stressed or weakened by other factors, such as drought or poor soil conditions, are more susceptible to infection.
  • Environmental conditions: Cool, wet weather in the spring and early summer provides optimal conditions for the growth and spread of the pathogen.
  • Tree density: Dogwoods that are planted in dense stands or in close proximity to each other are more likely to experience severe outbreaks of anthracnose.

Management and Control

Managing dogwood anthracnose involves a combination of cultural, chemical, and biological control methods. Here are some strategies that can help prevent and control the disease:

  • Plant resistant varieties: Some dogwood cultivars have been bred to be resistant to anthracnose. Choosing these varieties can help reduce the risk of infection.
  • Prune infected branches: Removing infected branches can help prevent the spread of the disease to healthy parts of the tree.
  • Improve tree health: Providing proper care, such as regular watering, mulching, and fertilization, can help improve the overall health and vigor of the tree, making it more resistant to disease.
  • Apply fungicides: In severe cases, fungicides may be necessary to control the disease. These should be applied according to label instructions and in conjunction with other management practices.


In conclusion, dogwood anthracnose is a serious fungal disease that can cause significant damage to dogwood trees. Recognizing the symptoms and implementing appropriate management strategies can help prevent and control the disease, ensuring the health and longevity of these beautiful trees.