Is this 'black sooty mold' or 'tea scale'?

cherylcoFebruary 19, 2009

I'd love some help identifying what ails this camellia. It came with the house and is the first one I've ever owned.

I'm in the PNW, the 'tree' is about 12' tall and on the north side of the house. The leaves were in this condition when we got the house and was originally planted right up next to the house. After snow tipped it last year, we moved it @ 6' out from the house followed by a major pruning to open it up and cut out the majority of the unhealthy leaves. (We figured that it was 'sink or swim' time....) I was delighted to see new growth a little over a month later and hoped that a more open structure would eliminate whatever ailed it. Obviously not the case.......

So, perusing the archives here, I assume it's either black sooty mold or tea scale? How can I treat it? FYI no trees overhead, and the hydrangeas next to it looked wonderful last year.

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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Well, cherylco, this kind damage of reminds of a sunscorch incident that I had when a tree that provided shade got sick and was removed. The plant was temporarily affected by direct exposure to the sun all day long. The problem was corrected when I transplanted the camellia to a place where it received afternoon shade. Although the scorched leaves looked ugly, they stayed attached. They do not have to be removed. They dropped off in about a year or so.

If the damage was indeed caused by scale, you should be able to confirm that by looking for these tiny insects on the leaves' underside. They feed on the leaf juices causing a spotty leaf appearance. They have sucking mouthpieces. Insecticidal sprays can be used to treat scale infestations. Make sure you spray the underside of leaves where most scale insects harbor. The sprays basically suffocate the insects when aprayed directly on them.

Black sooty mold looks different from that. It is a dark black fungus growth on most of the top of the leaf surface. It is caused when scale or other insects leave excrement on the top of the leaf. In small quantities, they do not cause much harm. To treat the mold, you usually would treat the scale infestation as described above instead.

Does this help you? Luis

Here is a link that might be useful: Camellia Scale Information By The A. C. S.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 1:03AM
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cherylco

Thanks, Luis! This helps a lot. Based on the photo, black sooty mold can definitely be eliminated as a possibility.

Changes in sunshine wouldn't appear to be the culprit, BUT I don't have an understanding of camellias. Before we moved it away from the house, the camellia receive no sunshine (and it already had this problem with some of the leaves). Now, it gets no sun until the longest several months, and then it gets about three hours per day. I water down low, so the leaves do not get wet.....

Scale seems like a viable culprit. I read the attached article, many thanks again. If I'm not sure, maybe there would be some value to applying a dormant oil now?

Cheryl

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 1:05PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

I would apply some controls closer to Spring (and later in the Fall), unless you have evidence of activity right now. In between, release some lady beetles and/or wasps.

The crucial months for sunscorch damage are the longest ones of the year (summer). My camellia that had sunscorch actually did well at first because the tree was removed this time of the year. As we got closer to May/June then I noticed the leaves scorching because by then, the sun rays were coming from almost above the plant and would hit it all day. In Feb/March, the sun rays were slanted and a wooden fence cast a shadow on the camellia.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 6:45AM
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cherylco

Okay, I guess what I could do now (still a little nippy here for bugs as most plants are still dormant)) is watch to see whether the new leaves stay healthy while it's totally in shade. Just in case, I'll start looking for alternative locations......

From a care perspective: our soil here is naturally acidic in the PNW. When I transplanted, I mulched with aged manure. Maybe I should use peat moss in the future?

Thanks!

Cheryl

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 1:10PM
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luis_pr(7b/8a Hurst, TX)

Regular mulch is fine. I choose mine based on price. You can choose the acidic or non-acidic variety since the non-acidic will not alter the soil pH noticeably.

I have used shredded bark and pine needles in different areas. Apply 3-4 inches of mulch up to the drip line. I extend that some because our summer temps are so hot and some sections of the yard are windy.

Aged manure will act as a fertilizer, not as mulch.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 3:27PM
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