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Blight afflicting flowering pear trees, botanist says

WEST LAFAYETTE — A Purdue University botanist says a potentially devastating tree disease linked to this spring's late freezes is damaging hundreds of ornamental trees throughout Indiana.

Purdue associate professor of botany and plant pathology Janna Beckerman says arborists across the state are reporting hundreds of cases of flowering pear trees infected with fire blight. That blight is so-named because the disease-causing bacterium makes infected trees appear as if they have been scorched by a fire, with wilted shoots and blackened leaves.

Beckerman says ornamental trees are more susceptible to fire blight if a freeze occurs after blooming, such as what happened this spring.

She warns homeowners to be alert for anyone claiming they can kill the bacterium with chemical sprays or injections. Beckerman says there's no current method of halting the disease.