Verticillium Wilt

Overview of Verticillium Wilt

Several shade tree species are susceptible to Verticillium Wilt. Maples are quite susceptible. Ash, catalpa, golden rain tree, smoke tree, magnolia, and redbud, and others can also be affected. Susceptible shrubs include barberry, boxwood, dogwood, lilac, spirea, weigela, and viburnum. Verticillium is not extremely aggressive but can be a problem on stressed trees and shrubs. Samples that have tested positive for the disease in the Plant Disease Clinic this year include green ash, maple, and catalpa.

Disease cycle of Verticillium Wilt   

The fungus Verticillium is found in the soil. After the roots of susceptible trees are invaded, the fungus moves into the vascular system. Trees may show yellowing, wilting, and drying of leaves in the top branches, or sometimes the entire crown. Leaves usually remain attached for a time before dropping off.

Image of Verticillium wilt symptoms in silver mapples. William Jacobi, Colorado State University,
Verticillium wilt symptoms in sliver mapples. William Jacobi, Colorado State University,

Signs and symptoms of Verticillium Wilt

If the bark is scraped away on wilted branches, you can sometimes see a green to brown streaking, although this is not always apparent. For confirmation, laboratory isolation is necessary. For a laboratory assay, several freshly wilted branch segments about 6 inches long and approximately 1/4 to up 1-inch diameter are needed. The fungus cannot be isolated from dead or dried branches. Diagnosing vascular pathogens are challenging see the vascular wilt article for more information on how to collect and submit samples to our clinic.

Trees and shrubs susceptible to Verticillium.

  • Ash
  • Azalea
  • Barberry
  • Boxwood
  • Buckeye, Ohio
  • Catalpa
  • Cherry and other stone fruits
  • Coffee tree, Kentucky
  • Cork tree
  • Currant and gooseberry
  • Dogwood
  • Elder
  • Elm
  • Honeysuckle
  • Lilac
  • Linden1
  • Locust, black
  • Magnolia
  • Maple
  • Oak, pin and red (rare)
  • Osage orange
  • Plum
  • Privet
  • Redbud
  • Rose
  • Russian olive
  • Serviceberry1
  • Spirea
  • Smoke tree
  • Sumac
  • Tree-of-heaven
  • Tulip poplar
  • Wiegela
  • Viburnum
  • Yellowwood

1 Resistance or susceptibility of these species depends on the cultivar and/or the strain of Verticillium present in the soil.

Type of Sample Needed For Diagnosis and Confirmation

The Iowa State University Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic can help you to investigate and confirm if your plant has this disease. An undiagnosed tree may be removed and chip into mulch, making the mulch a potential risk of pathogen introduction into other areas or contaminating compost.

Please see our website for current forms, fees, and instructions on collecting and packing samples. Contact information for each states diagnostic laboratory for U.S. residents can be located on the NPDN website.  If you have a sample from outside of Iowa, please DO NOT submit it to the Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic without contacting us.

Sapwood discoloration in Ash
Sapwood discoloration in Ash

Follow these instructions as much as possible.

  • Select 3 to 6 living branches from the symptomatic area in a tree.
  • Select branches with leaves, sending symptomatic leaves (bronzing) is a bonus, we do not test the leaves, but it gives important diagnostic information.
  • Select branches up to 1 inch in diameter and 6 to 12 inches in length.
  • Check for sapwood discoloration see picture on the right-hand side
  • If the samples are left in the truck or on the house porch for a couple of hours the chances of recovering the pathogen significantly decrease.
  • If day temperatures are the 90s, try to keep the sample cool have a styrofoam chest with cold packs or ice bags. We have some free at the clinic if you want to pick one up.
  • Collect the sample only when you can either deliver it directly to the PID Clinic right away or to send it overnight (never on a Friday!).
  • Follow our submission instructions on the Clinic website

Management of Verticillium Wilt

Verticillium may completely kill the tree or shrub in one growing season or cause damage to only a part of the plant. Sometimes an actively growing plant can wall off the invasion of the fungus and can survive for several years. Water infected trees or shrubs regularly to reduce stress. Dead branches should be pruned, but be sure to disinfect (such as with a 10% household bleach solution) pruning tools between cuts.

Since the pathogen is soilborne, once Verticillium wilt has been confirmed on a tree or shrub, careful consideration of the type of tree or shrub to be planted in the location is needed. See list below. Trees and shrubs resistant or immune to Verticillium wilt. (also see "Table 2. Plants resistant or susceptible to Verticillium wilt" of the APS resource "Verticillium wilt").

Do not chip the wood for mulch or compost if removing the tree.

Other problems that can be confused with Verticillium wilt include girdling roots, soil-applied herbicide damage, or root injury.

For more information see this bulletin for more information about Verticillium wilt.

Trees and shrubs resistant or immune to Verticillium wilt.

  • Apple
  • Crabapple
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Dogwood1
  • Fir
  • Firethorn (pyracantha)
  • Ginkgo
  • Hackberry
  • Hawthorn
  • Hickory
  • Honey locust
  • Hophornbeam
  • Juniper
  • Larch
  • Linden1
  • Mountain ash
  • Mulberry
  • Oak, white and bur
  • Pear
  • Pine
  • Spruce
  • Sweet gum
  • Poplar
  • Serviceberry1
  • Spruce
  • Sycamore
  • Walnut
  • Willow
  • Yew

1 Resistance or susceptibility of these species depends on the cultivar and/or the strain of Verticillium present in the soil.

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on September 1, 2016. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.