The ficus genus consists of approximately 1,000 subtropical and tropical plants and trees. These ficus, or fig trees, are hardy and adaptable trees that can thrive in most soil environments. These plants and trees, whether evergreen or deciduous, are mostly pest resistant but are susceptible to several diseases.
Anthracnose is a fungal disease that causes blight of the ficus. This disease lies dormant throughout the winter months on fallen debris that lies around the ficus. During the wet and rainy spring months, anthracnose fungal spores are transported onto the ficus and begin the process of infection. Infected ficus develop small, brownish-colored spots on the foliage. Newly developing foliage that is infected with anthracnose will curl and become distorted. Twigs and branches may also experience girdling cankers, dieback and growth stunt. Control this fungal disease with a combination of chemical treatments and pruning of the infected areas. Regular fungicidal treatments are also effective in increasing the ficus' resistance to the disease.
Botrytis blight is a fungal disease that is commonly referred to as gray mold. The disease travels by fungal spores and can infect all parts of the ficus including its foliage, stems, fruit and seeds. Infected areas of the ficus will initially display small, brown spots with silver-gray spores. These infected areas spread as the disease progresses, causing foliage wilt, stem and branch dieback, and the decay of fig fruit, flowers and seeds. Control botrytis blight by keeping the foliage of the ficus dry and by keeping its surrounding area free of debris and defoliated leaves. Fungicidal treatments are effective in preventing and controlling this disease when combined with pruning and maintenance.
Sooty mold is a cosmetic disease that only infects the surface of the ficus. Traveling by wind, these fungal spores attach onto the honeydew that is released by insects after they feed on the ficus. As the spores accumulate on the ficus, the infected areas are covered with a layer of black, charcoal-like fungus. Although the ficus' vascular system and tissues are not infected by this disease, the ficus does experience symptoms of infection. The black covering of mold prevents sunlight penetration and reduces air circulation. As a result, the ficus is unable to properly process its chlorophyll and pass nutrients throughout the system. The infected ficus then experiences growth stunt and dieback because of the infection. Treat sooty mold by washing off the ficus leaves. Treat the plant or tree with an insecticide to prevent the return of the feeding insects.