Nectria Canker: A Comprehensive Guide to Identification, Management, and Prevention

Nectria canker is a fungal disease that affects a wide variety of tree species, including hardwoods like maple, beech, and birch. Caused by fungi in the genus Nectria, this disease can lead to significant damage and even death in infected trees. In this blog post, we’ll explore the biology of Nectria canker, its symptoms, and the various strategies available to manage and prevent this disease.


Nectria canker is caused by several species of fungi in the genus Nectria, with Nectria galligena being one of the most common culprits. The disease is prevalent in temperate regions and can be particularly damaging to ornamental and shade trees.


Nectria canker manifests in various ways, depending on the host tree and the specific fungal species involved. Common symptoms include:

  • Cankers: Sunken, discolored areas on the bark, often with a reddish or dark brown color.
  • Fruiting Bodies: Small, red, cushion-like fruiting bodies may form around the cankers.
  • Dieback: Infected branches may die back, leading to a decline in the tree’s overall health.
  • Oozing: In some cases, a sticky or gummy substance may ooze from the cankers.

Life Cycle and Transmission

The Nectria fungi overwinter in infected plant tissues or cankers. In the spring, the fruiting bodies produce spores that are spread by rain, wind, or insects to healthy trees. Wounds or injuries to the tree provide entry points for the fungi, leading to infection.

Management and Control

Managing Nectria canker requires a combination of cultural, mechanical, and chemical strategies:

1. Cultural Practices

a. Proper Planting

Selecting resistant tree varieties and planting them in suitable locations can reduce susceptibility.

b. Watering and Fertilization

Proper watering and fertilization promote overall tree health, making them less prone to infection.

2. Mechanical Control

a. Pruning

Removing infected branches and cankers can prevent the spread of the disease within the tree. It’s essential to disinfect pruning tools between cuts to avoid spreading the fungus.

3. Chemical Control

a. Fungicides

Fungicides can be used as a preventive measure, especially during wet seasons when the disease pressure is high.

4. Wound Care

a. Avoiding Unnecessary Injury

Minimizing injuries to the tree by avoiding unnecessary pruning or mechanical damage can reduce infection sites.

b. Wound Dressing

In some cases, applying wound dressings to fresh cuts can prevent fungal invasion.


Prevention is often the best strategy for managing Nectria canker. This includes:

  • Regular Monitoring: Regular inspection of trees for early signs of infection can lead to timely intervention.
  • Proper Landscape Design: Planting trees with enough space and in suitable soil can reduce stress and disease susceptibility.
  • Hygiene Practices: Cleaning tools and equipment to prevent cross-contamination between healthy and infected trees.


Nectria canker is a serious disease that can lead to the decline and loss of valuable trees in landscapes and forests. Understanding the disease’s biology, recognizing its symptoms, and implementing an integrated management approach are crucial for controlling Nectria canker.

Ongoing research and collaboration between arborists, researchers, and tree care professionals will continue to enhance our ability to manage this disease. The lessons learned from Nectria canker also serve as a reminder of the importance of sustainable landscape practices and the intricate balance between plants, pathogens, and the environment.