Pear rust

Take my advice: if you see signs of disease on a plant, act on it straight away before it gets worse. Last month I noticed individual bright orange spots on several leaves on my conference pear tree … and I ignored them.

Orange-red spots on leaves: first sign of pear rust

Orange-red spots on upper surface of leaves: first sign of pear rust

One month later, I realised that almost a third of all the leaves on the tree were sporting this season’s colour – rusty orange-red!

Pear rust on leaves, but the fruit is unaffected

Orange spot is the new black spot – but the fruit is unaffected

On closer inspection I found some rather gruesome brown, gall-like growths on the corresponding lower side of each leaf, with alien hair-like projections.

Pear rust: warty gall on the underside of the leaves with hair-like projections

Ew! Warty gall on the underside of the leaves with hair-like projections

With the help of Mr Google, it wasn’t difficult to identify: European pear rust, caused by the fungus Gymnosporangium sabinae.

Breaking pear rust’s life cycle

Apparently, fungal rusts need a living host at all times to survive, so the life cycle of this particular nasty requires two host plants. This summer/autumn, my pear tree has played host to the fungus. Normally, it would then release spores from the underside of the leaves and restart the party on a neighbouring juniper tree. Being evergreen, the juniper would harbour the fungus though the winter, releasing spores in summer to reinfect my pear tree.

I can only hope that by painstakingly removing all the infected leaves (yes, I got on a ladder and cut off and binned every last one of the little blighters) that I have broken the cycle, but of course I may have been too late and spores may already have been released. If the culprit juniper is infected again, then my tree might well get reinfected next year and so the cycle will continue. As it is unlikely that I will be able to track down the culprit juniper, I will have to be more vigilant next year and tackle any infection as soon as it materialises.

The consequences

If left unchecked, heavy infections can reduce the yield of fruit, and I have had noticeably fewer pears this year. More worryingly, the infection can cause cankers in the bark (isolated dead areas), which can make the tree more susceptible to bacteria, fungus and insect attack.

The solution

There is no suitable fungicide available to home gardeners if you want to consume the fruit off your tree. And why have a pear tree if you’re not going to eat the pears?!

So all you can really do is try to break the cycle of  infection by removing as many of the infected leaves as possible and putting them straight in the dustbin or burning them. I appreciate that if you have a huge old pear tree this might not be practical (mine is only 4 years old).

Pear rust: bin or burn the affected leaves

Bin or burn the affected leaves

Fastidiously clear all the dropped leaves from under the tree as well. If your tree has got canker, then you’ll need to cut it out of the bark. I’m hoping I won’t get to that stage!

A healthy tree will fight off infection more effectively, so I will also be clearing around the base of my tree, and giving it some TLC over the next few months, including a good autumn mulch, a winter wash and an early spring feed. I will, of course, also ensure that it gets plenty of water, as we’ve had an exceptionally dry October so far. I’ll also be pruning the tree this winter to avoid overcrowding in the crown and improve the airflow through the branches.

Report your pear rust

Unfortunately, there has been a steady increase in pear rust in the UK over the past 10 years. In order to get a better picture of distribution, the RHS is asking anyone who comes across the disease to report it via its online survey.

If you’ve had a problem with pear rust, please let me know, especially if you have any extra tips for tackling it. Let’s hope next year brings less rust and more pears!


  1. Just planted a pear tree 3 weeks ago… Just spotted a couple leaves with orange spots and found this thread…Just learned junipers complete the life cycle for this fungus… Had I known I wouldn’t have bought the tree since my yard is surrounded with junipers. 😭😭😭

  2. 3rd year of pear rust, on my 20 year old pear tree, after last year I picked by hand all the leaves and removed a pretty big juniper bush from under it! I felt bad for my juniper that looked so pretty and also for my pear tree that lost its pears and leaves. I pruned it in winter and this year it grew so many leaves, by now all infected, but only about 15 pears that didn’t develop. It’s end of June and the tree is covered in rust spots, even though i did my best to clear the ground of any old leaves too and as I said the juniper bush is gone. I also have a cypress and a cedar tree close by but they are very healthy trees. I read all I could and I decided to give it a go with an essential oil spray – i intend to combine tea tree, arborvitae, oregano and rosemary – most anti fungal essential oils i know from doTerra. I don’t know yet quantity and proportion, will experiment and hopefully come back with feedback. It’s good to know pears are good to eat, i haven’t read that this fungus is dangerous directly to humans, so will keep the tree if it survives another year and the essential oil spray works. I’m in North Manchester, UK. Have a great summer everyone!

  3. Hi! I live in CT, US. Today, I bought a pear tree and put it in my car. I was in love with it I was planning on gifting it to my aunt. Once I got in my car, I turned around to make a video because it had so many fruits for a 5 ft tree. It cost US$85 and after potting soil and fertizer plus taxes it came to almost US$115… Anyways, I turned around to make a video and noticed the bright orange spots on about one third of the leaves. I instantly went on the world wide web to do some digging and learned this awful fungus. With tears in my eyes I went back to the store and returned the tree. The owner told me it was normal and it wouldn’t affect the fruits but since it was meant to be a gift I didn’t want to risk it. I’m still sad but I’m glad I decided to return it. 💔

  4. Hi
    I live in Sutton in Ashfield
    I have pear rust on my tree
    No Juniper near by that I know of
    Only a Cedar tree
    I have decided to pollard my pear tree as every branch had infected leaves

    • In many locations, like here in the central US, “cedar” is a commonly used name for “juniper”. The Latin for Eastern Red Cedar is Juniperus virginiana. And yes, it is a host for pear, as well as apple rust.

  5. I have a 6 year old pear tree in a very large tub. Last year (2020) I had loads of lovely pears, but this year I had just one!
    I put the lack of fruit down to the colder weather at the start of this year (2021) because when my tree was blossoming in Spring there were no pollinators around and by the time the bees arrived, the blossom on my tree had gone.
    I have recently noticed my tree has a terrible case of pear rust though, every leaf is affected! Will remove leaves and dispose of them ASAP.
    I live in the Midlands.

  6. I discovered pear rust on my tree today. The tree came with the house when we purchased it some 20 years ago. This year it produced a good yeild with quite a lot of pears still to be harvested. There isn’t a juniper tree in the vicinty but we do have an apple and plum tree next to it, planted just a few years ago. Could these be the culprits? The tree is too tall to cut all the leaves. Can it infect the adjacent trees, if not already done so.. If left untreated, will the tree die. By removing the leaves, will the tree be able to recover fully?

    • As far as I know the cycle is only perpetuated with junipers. I have an apple tree near my pear tree and it has never been affected. I doubt the tree will die if you don’t treat the rust, and if you are getting a good yield of pears then maybe it’s best to leave it alone.

  7. Rust spots for the 2nd year- no fruit, Manchester UK. Almost every leaf.

  8. Have just noticed pear rust on our tree for the first time. It’s about nine years old. We live in West Lancashire.

  9. Claire Dugmore

    I planted a small pear tree a couple of months ago and a few weeks ago noticed how lovely it was growing and also had some small pears growing but when I went to check it a couple of days ago I noticed all the leaves now have orange rust on and there are no longer any small pears on there, shall I pull all the infected leaves off?

    • My pear tree is covered in orange blisters. We have had this tree for about 15 years and this is the first time .I don’t know of any junipers around here.

  10. My pear tree is on my allotment plot. It’s one of 500 so it’s a big space. I can’t see any juniper trees nearby, or on the plot in general. My tree has pear rust. I feed it in the spring but I haven’t mulched it. What’s washing? Do you literally mean give it a wash? It’s a big tree so unlikely I’ll be able to remove all infected leaves although I’ll do my best. What’s the likelihood it will recover naturally with tlc?

  11. Having landscaped my garden over lockdown, I Bought and planted my pear tree in June 2020 and rust developed over the summer. Very shocked and disappointed! Got few pears but were small.
    Need to control spread of disease.

  12. I have had pear rust for the firs time this year. I live in west sussex

  13. I have rust on my pear tree, I have no Juniper tree but have a yew close by, cam this have played a part?

    • Hi Patrica, I haven’t read about a connection with yew trees anywhere, only junipers. I expect the spores can blow a long way on the wind, so it might not be immediately obvious where the juniper trees are.

  14. I have a very bad case of Pear Rust on my tree this year and very unsure how to get rid of it.I have got most of affected leaves off still more to reach what is my best way to get rid of them?Some say burn or put in my normal bin?Please can you help?

    • Rust spores are very resilient so don’t compost the affected leaves. It’s best not to leave them on the ground. You could burn them or put them in the normal bin. As a general rule that goes for any leaves with a fungal disease.

  15. I am from Leicester and my Conference pear tree has a bad infestation of pear rust. September 2020.

  16. I have peer rust on my year old tree I also bought eight other trees for family members they have all got the same thing I live in Rickmansworth Hertfordshire my sisters live in Nailsworth Gloucestershire Chinnor Oxford and Huntingdon.

  17. I have rust on my pear tree. I live in Mitcham Surrey

  18. I have Pear rust for the first time this year.Am removing the leaves. I don’t think I have a Juniper Tree nearby.Brecon. Wales

  19. Today, my husband asked me to look at our pear tree as it had orange spots on its leaves. I never noticed them before. The tree is about 10 years old. The first few years, it yielded perfect conference pears, so much so that I had to give them away.
    5 years ago, we decided that we wanted chickens. In order to give them some living space, we had to cut down some branches. Since that time, it never really recovered, further more, we feed birds and they perch on its branches, result, we didn’t have any fruits at all this year. So, tomorrow, I shall follow your example and remove its infected leaves and hope for the best.

    • I have 2 pear trees and the rust this year is epic. They are quite mature trees and I have been considering cutting them down, its been so bad this year. We hardly got any pears this year! We are in Birmingham UK

  20. We have just discovered it on our small pear tree in Battle, East Sussex

  21. Iv got this the hole tree has orange leaves now I’m so upset as it was my grandads. He cared for it for 40years and I didn’t know how to care for it and never had but this year one of my pears tress has not bared any fruit and has this pear rust I’m so scared that I’m going to loose it now and my grandads memory. I really Britney know what to do Iv read that cutting off all the leaves could make it worse

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  23. Can I eat the pears off a tree with pear rust

  24. I’m new to pear rust. How do I help the new tree once I have removed all the bad leaves? Do I use aspirin?

    • If you want to eat the fruit, leaf removal is pretty much all you can do. The RHS says: “The fungicides tebuconazole (Provanto Fungus Fighter Concentrate), tebuconazole with trifloxystrobin (Provanto Fungus Fighter Plus, Toprose Fungus Control & Protect), and triticonazole (Fungus Clear Ultra) are approved for the control of rust diseases on ornamental plants, and could be used on ornamental pear species” but if you use any of those DON’T EAT THE PEARS.

  25. I live in Leicester and had the same issue, this is the year (again young tree like you) and had few pears growing. Previous to spots , I had curly leaves that i cut and treat .

    What a headeck .

    • Hi Narmeen, it shouldn’t affect your pear yield. Focus on keeping the tree healthy in all other respects (feeding and watering) and hopefully you’ll start to get more pears. Good luck!

  26. Pear rust on my tree just saw it yesterday. Ontario, Canada.

  27. Heather Swoffer

    Just realised my 40 year old conference pear tree has rust now on every leaf.. a large tree this year covered in pears..
    Cannot possibly reach all leaves but will do best to remove what I can
    Any other tips welcome

    • Hi Heather. Wow, a 40-year-old pear tree. How fantastic. Mine is starting to get too big to reach all the leaves now. I remove as many as I can on the lower branches, but I’m resigned to the fact that I’m never going to completely get rid of the pear rust. Having said that, I still get a huge yield of pears every year. The only other tip I have is to clear the fallen leaves from the base (and burn or bin), so that the spores don’t live on in the soil … oh, and enjoy the pears!

  28. Deborah Hollingsworth

    My poor little pear tree is absolutely covered, recurring for three or four years, and the tree is only six. Massive haul of fruit last year, but huge spring drop this year. Rust too advanced for treatment this year, so fingers crossed remaining fruit ok for September pear tarts. North-east London.

    • I noticed this on my old pear tree. There are still a tons of oears but they have dimples and twisted and wierdly shaped. Is there fungus in the fruit? Are the unsightly pears still edible?

  29. I also have had pear leaf rust for two years here in Somerset. Young tree badly affected. Will be more observant next spring.

  30. We have rust on a young pear tree
    We live Whitchurch NRA bristol

  31. I have pear rust too but no juniper bush!
    It is next to a quince so could this be connected ?

  32. I have had heavy infections if pear rust on all my three trees for the past 2-3 years. I did try taking the leaves off year before last – but it has come back with a vengeance this year – and yes – the yield is way down. I aim to give the trees as good a feed as possible during this later summer and autumn – didn’t get much tlc last year 😬😬. I live in bromley SE London.

  33. Phillip Butcher

    Just found this on three pear trees on our allotment in Ilford Essex. Will remove leaves in the hope of breaking the cycle

  34. I have pear rust for the first time and have removed the infected leaves.

  35. I have it here in Seattle, WA. All my fruit dropped prematurely. I don’t know if this is due to the rust or some other issue. I will need to defoliate the entire tree, I suspect, but hesitate, wondering if the tree will survive without summer leaves.

    • I definitely wouldn’t defoliate the entire tree. It won’t survive that. Removal of too many leaves can do more harm than good. In bad years, I’ve probably removed abut 50% of leaves, without a detrimental effect on the tree. I don’t get premature fruit drop, so I don’t think it’s the rust that is causing that on your tree.

  36. Kate Hazlewood

    I have pear rust on a 2 year old Concorde, purchased earlier this year. I am picking off the leaves with the orange spots. I am in Kings Heath, Birmingham.

  37. I ought & planted a new conference pear tree last winter and it has developed orange spots on all the leaves, do I pull them all off?

  38. I have moved in a property with what seems like a newly planted pear tree. Unfortunately It appears to have pear rust on the leaves. I live in Selsdon, Surrey.

  39. I have just noticed the orange spots on my 3 year old pear tree. I have a juniper stuck in a corner about 30′ away so it must be that as I only put it in last winter. I will take it out. I am off to remove the infected leaves. Shame as it was growing so well. I live in Evesham

  40. Pear rust here in cheshunt Hertfordshire!

  41. I have rust spots on my pear trees

  42. I have had pear rust for the last two years keep removing the infected leaves hoping to break the cycle. I live in Long Eaton Nottingham

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