Pine pitch canker

​​​​What is it?

Pine pitch canker is caused by a fungus, Fusarium circinatum, which affects pines and Douglas fir. Spores are spread by wind or can be carried in fog or rain and can enter trees or seedlings through wounds caused by hail, wind damage or removal of branches; through damage caused by insects such as beetles or weevils; on seeds; or through the roots. The fungus can live for more than a year in wood.

Where is it found?

Fusarium circinatum probably originated in Mexico but is now found in North, Central and South America, in Europe and in parts of Asia and Africa.

What are its effects?

Pine pitch canker causes bleeding infections that can encircle branches, exposed roots and trunks. The wood beneath the infection site is saturated with resin and becomes a characteristic honey colour. While the major damage from this fungus is to branches, needles, trunk or stem and roots, pine pitch canker can also infect trees’ reproductive structures, killing female flowers and mature cones and causing damping off disease in young seedlings.

What’s the risk to Australia?

Pine trees are planted over large areas of Australia and are the basis of a major industry. Virtually all pines are susceptible to pine pitch canker. Many thousands of radiata pine trees have been killed by this disease in California, and all native mainland populations of radiata pine in the United States are severely threatened by pine pitch canker. If the disease became established in Australia it could cause severe damage and losses in pine plantations.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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