Coping with cedar apple rust

If an Eastern red cedar tree affects apple and crab apple trees with cedar apple rust, what are the choices for coping with the problem?

Courtesy of Donna Williamson
The gelatinous galls of cedar apple rust have an other-worldly appearance.
Courtesy of Donna Williamson
Cedar apple rust spreads as spores from native Eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana) and affects apples and crab apples.

We have had a cool wet spring punctuated by 85-degree (F.) days here and there. This is the perfect opportunity for development of cedar apple rust – which looks like an alien from "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

The native Eastern red cedar – actually a juniper (Juniperus virginiana) – is particularly susceptible to rust, and these gelatinous galls form, swell, and release spores that affect apples and crab apples in my yard.

Pondering the choices

I could cut the cedar tree down. That’s what happened in the history of Winchester, an apple-growing town in Virginia. At a time when acres and acres of apples were grown commerically in the area, residents of the town culled all the Eastern red cedars to protect the apples. The soils in the area were shallow and not suited for other agricultural pursuits before the development of the chemical-supported agriculture we have today. Now they spray the few orchards left, and junipers can grow again.

I could cut down the apple tree. After all, it is near the Eastern red cedar and always gets a bad case of cedar apple rust and therefore no apples worth anything are harvested. And then I could plant the heirloom ‘Arkansas Black,’ a wonderful cedar apple rust-resistant variety with delicious apples that store well.

Or I could finish pruning the roses and grapes, which is what usually resolves this mental dilemma and takes my mind off the problem until next spring when the galls will reappear and I will ponder again. Ah, spring.

Professional advice

If you also have cedar apple rust, here are some good sources of infomration:

Cornell University Plant Clinic

West Virginia University

Integrated Pest Management Program (Cornell)


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Donna Williamson blogs regularly at Diggin' It. She's a master gardener, garden designer, and garden coach. She has taught gardening and design classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands in Leesburg, and Shenandoah University. She’s also the founder and editor of Grandiflora Mid-Atlantic Gardening magazine, and the author of “The Virginia Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Low Maintenance Gardening in Virginia.” She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. To read more by Donna, click here.

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