Fire Blight of Ornamental Pears

DOWNLOAD PDF (PLPA-119) Fireblight on pears.

The casual agent of fire blight is a bacterium– Erwinia amylovora, which causes a vascular wilt in many varieties of pome trees: apples, pears, and ornamental pears, such as Bradford pears planted in many landscapes.


  • Water-soaked flowers
  • Leaves progressively turning brown and black blotches; curling and eventually shriveling
  • Twigs begin to wilt from tip downward, turning black and curl in a classical “Sheperd’s hook”
  • Branches develop dark, sunken cankers; as they enlarge and girdle the branches, the branch eventually dies.

Disease Cycle:

  • The bacteria over-winters in cankers, bud scars and branches.
  • Bacteria forms ooze which attracts insects and the insects then spread the bacteria via the nectarthodes in the flowers.
  • The bacteria can also be spread by splashing rain.
  • The bacteria can infect leaves and new tender succulent twigs.



  • Sanitation pruning during winter dormancy – Cut an infected branch 8 to 12 inches below the visible injury or canker. To avoid spreading bacteria during pruning, sanitize the
  • pruning tool before each cut with a 10% solution of bleach (one part bleach to nine parts water). To prevent rust, dry and oil tools after use.
  • Reduce excessive succulence.
  • Moderate resistant varieties are available.
  • A weak (0.5%) Bordeaux mixture or other copper fungicide applied several times as blossoms open can reduce new infections, but will not eliminateall new infections or those already existing in wood.



Prepared by Sheila McBride1 and Dr. David Appel2
Diagnostician, Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory1 and Professor of Plant Pathology and Microbiology2
Texas AgriLife Extension Service; The Texas A&M University System
April 10,2010 (Rev. 04112012)
 The information given herein is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade names are made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel is implied.
Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating

7 Responses to Fire Blight of Ornamental Pears

  1. showgirl09 says:

    Howdy Matt!
    At this time there is not anything new in Fire Blight treatment. You can find our most recent publication over Fire Blight of Ornamental Pears at the AgriLife Bookstore by following this link –

  2. Matt Winkler says:

    Is there anything new in Fire Blight treatment? I’m just East of Johnson City and have pulled several trees that were severely infected and have done heavy pruning of others. Do you have a list of resistant varieties? Is there a comprehensive guide to management?

  3. Rhea says:

    could you please mention “how is fire blight disease diagnosed”?

    Please Answer

  4. kevo says:

    A quick search on agris shows a hit on a FAO 1976 workshop on fireblight research titled “Chemical control of fire blight [Erwinia amylovora] in pear by means of tree trunk injection”.Workshop on Fire Blight Research; U.S. Agricultural Research Service. Fruit and Nut Crops Research Branch v. 3d p. 97-99.
    Also, would suggest for you to read Chemical Control of Fireblight by PG Psallidas and J Tsiantos (Fire blight: the disease and its causative agent, Erwinia amylovora 2000 pp. 199-234). A decent review of experiments against fireblight.

  5. Is there any studies that show treating a tree with fireblight, with an antibiotic like Agrimyecin, as a foliar spray or systemic injection with antibiotic.

  6. Suzann Staats says:

    I have two Pears planted last October. All was well till this summer when black spots began showing on leaves and no new growth. It was suggested I use Infungicide I did and all seemed to be going well. New growth on ends of old, however it appears the black spots are showing up on the new part.
    I’m having issues with other trees, bushes and some plants as well.

  7. Suzann Staats says:

    October 2011 I had Pears planted in back yard. They seemed fine until summer came into play. Over the summer black spots began to show up on leaves eventurally drying up on stem. I was informed they had a fungus which was advised I use Infungicide. I did and seemed to work. New stems and leaves began to grow onto to end of old, however the black spots are now going to the new growth.
    Could it be soil issues as I have problems with other plants as well. What can I do?

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