University of Maryland Extension

Shade tree anthracnose - Trees

leaf lesion on maple
Maple anthracnose

Brown leaves on sycamore, maple, or oak

Key Points

  • Anthracnose diseases are characterized by discrete lesions that are usually found along leaf veins.
  • In severe cases, these lesions may run together and kill the entire leaf. 
  • This is an early-season disease and many tree species like sycamore will develop new foliage to replace diseased leaves. 
  • Young leaves may become distorted as healthy tissue continues to grow around dead areas.
  • Under optimum disease conditions (cool, wet, rainy spring weather), the entire tree may be defoliated in the spring or early summer.
  • Infection may proceed from the leaf blade down the petiole (leaf stem) into the small twigs at the tips of the tree branches.
  • The pathogen may overwinter in the twigs until the infection cycle starts over the next spring.
  • Common examples are oak anthracnose, maple anthracnose , and sycamore anthracnose.
  • Management

sycamore anthracnose symptomsycamore anthracnose canker on a twig
Infection may proceed from the leaf blade down the petiole (leaf stem) into the small twigs at the tips of the tree branches


  • In most cases, anthracnose leaf diseases on mature trees will not be a major problem threatening the health of the tree.
  • The best management practices involve pruning and removal of dead twigs during the winter or dry summer months.
  • Mature trees can be thinned for better air circulation throughout the canopy.
  • Rake and remove infected fallen leaves in the fall and plant resistant varieties when available.
  • It is generally not economical to spray large mature shade trees for anthracnose diseases nor is it effective once disease symptoms are noticeable.
  • Young trees or newly planted trees may need fungicide sprays to prevent excessive leaf loss until they become established in the landscape.
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