Silver leaf is caused by a fungus that infects wood and the water-conducting xylem through fresh wounds. A toxin produced by the pathogen is carried through the xylem to leaves, causing them to turn a silvery gray. As the disease progresses over a few years, leaves curl upward at the edges and turn brown. Eventually limbs, scaffolds, and the whole tree will die.

Dark brown discoloration of the heartwood in dead or dying limbs is a characteristic symptom of the disease. Spore-forming basidiocarps develop on the surface of trunks and branches that have been killed by the fungus. These are small, leathery structures that are often shelflike in shape and frequently form on the north side of affected trees. Their upper surface is grayish white and indistinctly zoned, and their lower surface is smooth and purplish. They may appear at any time of the year, but most often they are formed in fall. Spores are ejected from the basidiocarps’ lower surface during rainy or moist weather and spread by wind. A basidiocarp can produce spores for 2 years. Sapwood-exposing wounds that have not healed over are susceptible to infection. Spores infect exposed xylem, and the pathogen remains confined to the xylem tissue until the infected branch dies.

Leaf symptoms are most easily identified in spring before leaves “harden off.” Symptoms are most commonly seen in trees 3 to 5 years old, but the disease can affect trees of any age. It generally takes 1 to 2 years after infection before leaf symptoms are obvious.

Garden diseases – Silver leaf fungus

Keep your eye out for silver leaf fungus
Image: Janet Van Zoeren

Silver leaf is a fungus that is spread via airborne spores and enters through pruning wounds. In most cases it causes leaves to turn silver and the affected branches to die. However not all plants suffer from silvering foliage. In some cases the disease is only detected when branches start to die back.

What is silver leaf fungus?

Fruiting bodies of the fungus is another indication of ‘silver leaf’ infestation
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Plums (particularly Victoria), cherries, apples and apricots are highly susceptible to silver leaf fungus, which enters the plant through pruning wounds or abrasions. The first sign of infection is during the summer when leaf silvering occurs. By late summer, mauve-coloured fruiting bodies (the spore-producing organs of a fungus) will have formed.

Neighbouring plants like laburnum and rhododendron can also be affected, although their leaves don’t turn silver.

How do I recognise silver leaf fungus?

Dark staining on dead branches confirms silver leaf diagnosis
Image: Gardeners World

Silver leaf causes the foliage on your plant to turn a silvery hue before browning and dying off. New shoots start to die back, followed by entire branches. Even if your plant does not have silvering foliage, but branches die back without obvious cause, you should suspect silver leaf.

To confirm the diagnosis, cut off a dead branch and moisten the end. If a dark brown or purple stain appears in the wood, your plant is suffering from silver leaf. False silver leaf symptoms are sometimes caused by cold, wind or lack of water. While the leaves might turn silver, the inside of the wood won’t be stained.

How to treat silver leaf fungus

If you identify silver leaf, cut back any affected growth to around 15cm (6″) beyond the infected wood. Burn the prunings as soon as possible as fruiting bodies will still appear on branches that are left lying around. If possible, cut the branches back on a dry day during the summer.

Feed and water the tree to promote its recovery and, when autumn arrives, provide a mulch of well rotted manure or garden compost. Take care to not mound any mulch around the base of the stem. If you notice any fruiting bodies on the main stem over the autumn it would be best to remove the tree entirely.

How to prevent silver leaf fungus

Prune your fruit trees in the summer
Image: GrowVeg.com

The infectious spores of silver leaf are particularly prevalent during mild, wet winters. This is why plums and cherries should always be pruned in the summer during dry weather, when the wounds will heal much quicker. When pruning always use tools that have been cleaned and sterilised before and after use.

Oak Wilt

The image above shows symptoms of Oak Wilt killing an oak. Photo by Steven Katovich.

Where is Oak Wilt?

Oak Wilt has never been detected in Canada before, but the disease is widespread less than 600m from Windsor, Ontario, on Belle Isle, Michigan. That’s only five football stadiums away! London is strategically located along the corridor where Oak Wilt could make its way into Ontario. Having an educated and engaged community aware of this disease that can help with early detection is especially important.

What is Oak Wilt?

Oak Wilt is an aggressive disease that affects all species of oak trees, especially red oaks. It is caused by a non-native fungus that is spread by “picnic” beetles, by root to root contact, or by people moving firewood from place to place. The fungus invades the water vessels in the sapwood of oak trees, blocks them, and kills the infected trees. Death is sudden, and it often appears that the tree is wilted (“oak wilt”).

At the advanced stage of infection, cracks and patches of white, grey or black appear on the tree emitting a characteristic fruity smell (like Juicy Fruit gum!) that attracts insects that help spread the fungus to other host trees.

Once a tree has the disease there is nothing we can do for that tree, but we can try careful root pruning (to prevent spread by roots to neighbouring oak trees), and destroy the infected tree promptly without moving it elsewhere.

The image above shows an Oak Wilt pressure pad. Photo by Julie Holmes.

Tips to Prevent Oak Wilt

Don’t Move Firewood!
If an infected tree was cut down for firewood, it should be burned as quickly as possible, and never taken elsewhere, like to a camp or cottage! By not moving firewood, you will help prevent the spread of all sorts of pests and diseases that threaten our forests.

Avoid routine pruning of oak trees between April and July!
This is also the time of the year that “picnic” beetles carrying the fungal spores are active and can be attracted to the sweet smelling infected Oaks. If the work is an emergency than prune branches that are only needed to make the area safe. Immediately after the wound is created, paint the area with pruning paint or even latex paint to provide a barrier to the “picnic” beetle.

Be on the lookout for unusual changes!
Give your oak tree special attention and observe it during the seasons for changes. Does it look like it is suffering from drought when there is not one? Oak trees should have their leaves in the spring and summer months. If green or browning leaves are on the ground in July and dropping early that is a common sign of Oak wilt.

Contact an Arborist!
It’s good practice to have trees inspected yearly. An Arborist may be able to see symptoms in Oak trees that would perhaps not stand out to the homeowner.

The image above shows an example of discoloration of leaves progressing from the edge of the leaf to the middle; premature leaf fall (including green leaves). Photo by Joseph O’brien, USDA Forest Service.

What is the City doing?

Oaks comprise about 1% – 2% of our urban forest, and generally there are more white oak species than red oak species in London. White oaks tend to die more slowly when infected by Oak Wilt. According to The City of London’s tree inventory, we have an estimated 8,000 oak trees, with about a 50-50 makeup of red and white oak types.

The City’s Forestry Operations are following best management practices (BMPs) such as scheduling routine non-emergency pruning of oaks outside of the months of April-July during the active period of the “picnic” beetle.

Although oaks make up a relatively small percentage of the urban forest, they are very important, usually living for centuries and growing to a large size, providing food, shelter and a place to live for hundreds of other species of native wildlife. Many of London’s older mature trees are oaks, which contribute to a diverse tree canopy cover.

How to Report Oak Wilt

By law, finding this disease, or suspecting it, must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The City of London is supporting the CFIA with early detection of the disease in Canada and asks residents that have concerns with an oak tree that dies suddenly or appears to be showing signs or symptoms of oak wilt to contact the CFIA or the City’s Urban Forestry division immediately.

Return to Trees and Forests Home Page

Need help with what to do in your garden?

Q What is silver leaf?

A True silver leaf is a fungal disease (Chondrostereum purpureum) that affects a number of plants, notably plums. It’s the most common plum killer.

Caption: Not all affected plants have silvered leaves, sometimes dieback in the first sign

Q How do I know if my plants have silver leaf?

A Affected plants often show a silvering of the foliage. However, many plants with the disease don’t have silvered foliage and the first sign is dieback of branches. This starts out in one part of the tree. Sometimes, but not always, the disease gradually spreads until the whole tree becomes affected.

Infected branches at least 2.5cm in diameter will show a brown stain in the wood when cut, particularly when the cut surface of the branch is wetted. Infected branches may gradually die back as the fungus spreads throughout the plant, eventually causing death. Occasionally, partially affected plants may recover from silver leaf without treatment. Silver leaf disease gets its name from the effect it has on infected trees. It is a killer disease that mainly affects plums, but some related ornamentals are also susceptible.

Q Does silver leaf produce toadstools?

A Toadstools aren’t produced but bracket fungi are. The spores are produced in fruiting bodies, which are flat or bracket-shaped, between 2-10cm across and overlapping like tiles. These are often numerous on the infected wood.

They are a bit variable in appearance. When wet they are fleshy, but shrivel up in dry weather. They start off purple in colour, especially when damp, but become brownish with age and they dry out. Sometimes the surfaces can be covered in hairs and zones of different colour shades. They can appear on the dead side of trees that are still alive, on tree stumps and on logs.

Q Does silver leaf have to be reported?

A No, it’s no longer a notifiable disease.

Q Why do the leaves affected by silver leaf turn a silvery colour?

A A toxin produced by the silver leaf fungus in the branches and trunk causes the upper leaf surface to separate from the layer beneath. This gives the leaf a silvery appearance due to changes in light reflection from the leaf surface, although there is no fungus inside the leaves.

Q Is a silvering of the leaves always due to infection by the silver leaf fungus?

A No. False silver leaf is a condition that can affect some plants but is not due to fungal attack, though the upper leaf membrane separates from the layer beneath in the same way. False silver leaf is due to stress, caused by factors such as pest attack, unseasonally cold or hot weather, drought or malnutrition. It does not cause branch dieback or produce bracket fungi.

Plants that are growing vigorously in optimum growing conditions are less likely to suffer from stress and rarely show symptoms of false silver leaf. Improving the feeding, watering and mulching of the plant may get rid of these symptoms.

Q Which plants are susceptible to silver leaf attack?

A The plant most susceptible to silver leaf attack is the plum variety ‘Victoria’ on a ‘Brompton’ rootstock. Other susceptible plants include fruit trees, hawthorns, currants, gooseberries, laburnum, poplar, Portugal laurel, roses, eucalyptus and rhododendrons. Pears appear to be less susceptible than other fruit trees.

Q How does silver leaf fungus infect plants?

A Spores of the silver leaf fungus enter plants through wounds such as pruning cuts, snags and frost cracks. Damaged tissue takes about a month to heal sufficiently to provide a barrier against silver-leaf fungal spores. Once the spores have entered the plant, a mass of fungal threads are produced which kill the living wood as they spread. The fungus also produces a toxin, which proceeds upwards through the plant in the sap, affecting leaves and branches above the point of infection.

Q How does silver leaf spread between plants?

A It is the spores of the silver leaf fungus that spread the disease between plants. These are produced from September to May. The spores are carried by the wind and are often released during damp weather.

Q When can I prune fruit trees that are at risk from silver leaf infection?

A Prune between June and August. This is when fruit trees produce a gum in the plant tissues, which prevents the spread of silver-leaf fungal threads. Any spores that enter and germinate during this time are unlikely to go on to cause silver-leaf symptoms.

Outside these months, avoid pruning susceptible plants, especially if plants infected with silver leaf are nearby. If you must prune, because a tree is damaged in a gale, immediately paint cut surfaces with a tree-wound paint or ordinary household emulsion paint.

Q What should I do if I suspect silver leaf disease on my tree?

A It is important to confirm that the symptoms are being caused by true silver leaf and not false silver leaf. Diagnosis can be confirmed by cutting through a branch that is at least 2.5cm in diameter, then wetting the cut surface. Look for a brown stain in the wood.

If you find a brown stain, cut further down the branch until you reach where the brown stain ends. All the wood above the last of the stain will be infected. If the whole tree is silvered, and a brown stain is found in a branch (where it joins the trunk), the fungus has also affected the tree trunk.

Q How do I deal with silver leaf, once I’m sure it’s present?

A If true silver leaf is confirmed, all infected wood should be removed to at least 10cm below where the brown staining ends, and burnt. If you leave the branches lying around, the fungus will go on developing and spores will be released, infecting more trees.

Pruning should be carried out without leaving any snags. Keep spores out of wounds by painting with a tree-wound paint or a household emulsion paint. Pruning tools should be disinfected after each tree has been pruned. Wipe them clean, and then dip them for a moment or two in household disinfectant.

When whole trees are silvered and true silver leaf is confirmed, you could leave the tree for a further season, just in case the plant is able to recover. But if other susceptible plants are nearby, it may be safest to remove the tree to reduce the risk of the disease spreading. Try also to remove the stump.

Q How else can I reduce the chances of silver leaf infection?

A If fruiting plum trees are to be replaced and new plants bought in, choose a variety on a rootstock that shows a high resistance to silver leaf. Plum ‘Victoria’ is one example; it shows high resistance if grown on the rootstock ‘Pixy’.

Stores of firewood logs and old tree stumps, particularly of poplar, should be inspected at intervals for signs of silver-leaf fruiting bodies; if these are found, dispose of the wood as soon as possible. In case your firewood is infected with the fungus, don’t risk storing it in the fruit garden.

Improve the growing conditions of susceptible trees by feeding, mulching and watering. Plants that are healthy and growing well are less likely to die back when infected with silver leaf, and may even recover spontaneously.

PLEASE PIN ME!

I just finished this really fun faux silver leafing project in my parents’ guest room so I’m excited to share the tutorial. I used the technique on the both the room door and the closet doors, but it would also work wonderfully to create an accent wall. When I write up a tutorial, I always like to make sure to include lessons learned. So today I’m going to start with my biggest lesson learned from this project. But first, let me introduce you to my girl, Lily…

Meet my girl

And this is what happens when I let Lily roam around while I’m painting…

Doh!!

Tiny little puppy prints

Lesson learned: Keep the baby out of the room when painting. When I caught this action out of the corner of my eye, I let out a little yelp. My poor girl froze in her tracks. I think I scared the crap out her. But I have to admit that those tiny little puppy prints are pretty adorable. Now, ahem, moving on to today’s project. This is the guest room at my parents’ home and where I sleep when I’m there. Notice that lovely dresser on the left? That’s my shabby chic refurb that I did using Looking Glass Paint. But what I really want to point out to you are those doors. Those ugly brown doors. All the doors in their home are like this…or…were like this. I’ve painted all the rest of them white and it really brightened up the home. But I saved these doors for last because I wanted to do something special with them. It took me a while to figure out exactly what I was going to do, but then the idea came to me.

Before

I had been wanting to try silver leafing, but the process is kind of tedious so I thought I’d see if I could create the look using just paint. I had no idea if it would work or how it would turn out. But as I’ve said before, I love experimenting. The worst that could happen is that I hate it. And if I hated it, then I would simply have a new opportunity to try something different. (By the way, those yellow walls will have to go next. But I wanted to do the doors first before I decided on the wall color). I started by giving the doors a coat of primer. Actually, I gave them four coats. I picked up some Glidden primer at Walmart. Never again. When I painted the other doors in the house. I didn’t even use primer. It took three coats of semi-gloss and they came out beautiful. Here I did four coats of crappy primer and I still didn’t get full coverage. Lesson learned.

Primed doors

I couldn’t find any silver paint. I went to both Lowe’s and Home Depot. Home Depot had Martha Stewart metallics, but the sales person told me that I’d only really want to use that if I were doing a glazing process. What I did find, instead, was an aluminum paint from Rustoleum. It’s called Rust-Oleum Protective Enamel Paint Stops Rust — Metallic Aluminum. Well, now I feel much better knowing those doors will never rust. Anyway, I decided to give it a try. Like I said earlier, if I didn’t like how it turned out then I’d just repaint. I started out giving the door a single coat of the aluminum using a foam brush…

One coat of paint

I really like how smooth the paint went on. But when I first opened the can and started mixing, a lot of the paint was chunked up at the bottom and it took me a good 10 minutes trying to break the chunks apart and smooth the paint out. I did get a little frustrated but once I got it smoothed, I really liked the texture. It is oil based, so it stinks to high hell. So make sure you have some good ventilation.

Once the first coat was dry, I used a 6-inch wall weaver paint brush to create the faux silver leafing. I started on the upper corner with a horizontal stroke…

Start in the corner

Horizontal stroke

I took the stroke about 6-inches, then turned the brush and painted a vertical stroke…

Vertical stroke

Vertical

Then repeat horizontal, vertical, horizontal, etc…

Horizontal

Your wall will start looking like this…

Watch for drips

Watch out for drips. Just run the brush over any drippy areas to smooth it out. I was pretty happy with how the doors looked until the paint started to dry. Once it started to dry, the horizontal/vertical contrasts became almost unnoticeable. You can see on the next picture the areas where the paint was drying…

Drying

I was pretty bummed at this point. I literally sat watching the paint dry. My beautiful finish was fading away as the minutes went by and the paint dried. What I needed was something to create a little contrast between the vertical and horizontal strokes. I had no idea what I was going to do. I knew there was some glaze somewhere in the house so I thought I would see what would happen if I did that cross cross pattern using the glaze. Well, I couldn’t find the glaze, but I came across this really old rusted can of wood stain…

Really old can of stain

Since it’s also oil-based, I thought perhaps I could mix some in with the aluminum paint to darken it up just a bit. Then I could try dry brushing it over the pattern I already created. I started out by adding just a little bit to the paint and mixing it really well…

Stain mixed with paint

I did some light strokes over the current pattern, but still didn’t get enough contrast. So I mixed more in. Still not enough. I ended up using the wood stain straight and dry brushing following the pattern I already put down. (To dry brush, just lightly wet your brush and then remove any excess paint before brushing.) This technique worked really well. The stain went on very lightly and is translucent so it gave me the perfect contrast I was looking for.

Finished

Once dry, I added some pretty knobs from Hobby Lobby.

Pretty knobs

Here is the before picture again…

Before

Here is the after. Believe it or not those yellow walls are the same as the picture above, only the lighting is different later in the day. Weird how that happens.

DIY faux silver leaf

DIY faux silver leaf

DIY faux silver leaf

DIY Faux Silver Leaf

Since the yellow walls were not jiving with the new faux silver leaf doors, I had to paint the room. While searching for the perfect color, I learned a few lessons about color matching. And after multiple trips to the hardware store and multiple paint samples, I found the perfect color…

Faux Silver Leaf With New Room Color

Check out all the details about the wall color makeover and see more pictures here, along with ALL the paint samples I went through. Ugh! There’s also a full tutorial of how I created that faux trim around the closet doors (yes, that is not a wood trim).

Oh, and notice that little necklace hanger/jewelry organizer in the upper right corner that I up cycled from an old coat rack. You can find that tutorial here. Anywho, I hope my faux silver leaf has inspired you. Thanks for stopping by!

Cheers! Jenise

This post linked to some of these wonderful blogs and here.

  1. Elizabeth

    May 16, 2014 at 9:39 am (6 years ago)

    That looks awesome! I love posts like this where someone tries something new and is successful. This just looks great! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

    • Jenise

      May 16, 2014 at 3:17 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you Elizabeth! I almost wasn’t successful…until I found the wood stain. 🙂

      Reply

  2. Jessica

    May 16, 2014 at 10:00 am (6 years ago)

    What a great idea! I love the brush strokes! Looks great!
    Jessica from http://www.sparklesandglue.com

    Reply

    • May 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you so much Jessica!

      Reply

  3. Yvonne @ Sunnyside Up-Stairs

    May 16, 2014 at 8:45 pm (6 years ago)

    What an intriguing effect. 🙂 It definitely makes the space look more creative!

    Reply

    • May 17, 2014 at 11:53 am (6 years ago)

      Thank you Yvonne!

      Reply

  4. Kim @ The Cookie Puzzle

    May 17, 2014 at 6:07 pm (6 years ago)

    What a cool idea! I love this. Thank you so much for sharing…pinning this now!

    Reply

    • May 17, 2014 at 6:54 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you very much, Kim!!

      Reply

  5. JaneEllen

    May 18, 2014 at 1:54 am (6 years ago)

    How awesome that is, much less expensive also. Silver leafing is not cheap and can take a long time to do big doors like those. Pretty darned smart of you to think of adding the stain, what a great save. I’d hate to have to go buy something to do a job in middle of it. You are very talented and imagine your parents are very pleased with their free paint job. Happy weekend

    Reply

    • May 18, 2014 at 10:56 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you JaneEllen. I’m happy with how it turned out. I can’t wait to do the walls and pull the whole look together!

      Reply

      • Amira Joulay

        October 22, 2016 at 2:39 am (3 years ago)

        What an awesome project – i love it!

        So as you can see, I’ve arrived 2 years later. Did you ever get to do the rest of the room and have you uploaded any pics of it anywhere?

        Reply

        • November 16, 2016 at 3:42 pm (3 years ago)

          Thank you so much Amira! Yes the room is complete. Here are the updates: 1) new paint color HERE, 2) transformed the bunk bed into a regular bed HERE, 3)made a slip cover for the headboard HERE, 4) refinished the furniture http://diyfunideas.com/ridiculously-awesome-shabby-chic-furniture-makeover-using-krylon-looking-glass-paint/.

          Reply

  6. Scribbler

    May 18, 2014 at 10:29 am (6 years ago)

    Your doors look fabulous as does that dresser. I wish I was still young and limber enough to do my bedroom ceiling this way, but it is not going to happen! I may try your idea on something smaller — I could handle that. Maybe a door?

    Reply

    • May 18, 2014 at 11:10 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you! I think the ceiling would be challenging for anyone. But wow that would make an amazing ceiling!

      Reply

  7. Michelle

    May 18, 2014 at 11:37 am (6 years ago)

    Wow, what a great job….I love the look and thank you for the tutorial.

    Reply

    • May 18, 2014 at 11:09 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you Michelle!

      Reply

  8. Emily

    May 19, 2014 at 9:16 am (6 years ago)

    Great job! Love the look! We would love for you to share with us at Your Designs This Time!

    Reply

    • May 19, 2014 at 1:29 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you Emily! We’re all linked up now. 🙂

      Reply

  9. Rachel Kathyg @ onlinesisterhood

    May 19, 2014 at 11:26 am (6 years ago)

    I think this turned out so pretty. great technique. found at off the hook monday linky. have a great week.

    Reply

  10. Steph @ Crafting in the Rain

    May 19, 2014 at 11:44 pm (6 years ago)

    Turned out great!

    Reply

    • May 19, 2014 at 11:58 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you Steph!

      Reply

  11. Kelley

    May 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm (6 years ago)

    That looks 100 times better than the blah-wood look. Well done!

    Reply

  12. in Pyjamas

    May 26, 2014 at 9:31 am (6 years ago)

    What a great way to revamp an old wardrobe. Thanks for linking up to Sweet and Savoury Sunday, stop by and link up again. Have a great day!!

    Reply

  13. Richella Parham

    May 27, 2014 at 10:12 pm (6 years ago)

    Wow! Hard to believe those are the same doors! Good for you for finding a way to create this finish with paint and stain.

    Reply

    • May 27, 2014 at 10:51 pm (6 years ago)

      Thank you Richella. Almost done with the new wall color. Can’t wait to reveal. It’s looking pretty amazing.

      Reply

  14. Val

    May 30, 2014 at 11:16 am (6 years ago)

    Hi Jenise, just found your blog via The Pin Junkie.

    Wow, what a transformation! The addition of the stain made all the difference. Love your bling-bling doors!

    Val

    Reply

    • May 30, 2014 at 11:22 am (6 years ago)

      Thanks so much Val!

      Reply

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