The birch tree is subject to a number of fungal diseases that can rob it of its leaves, which change into a splendid range of colors from season to season. The birch is a fast-growing pioneer tree that can live up to 90 years old. All fungal diseases that affect birch trees do not result in death, and their presence can be easily detected and sometimes treated.
Anthracnose is a fungal disease that can cause defoliation of a birch tree. An infection usually occurs after wet, unusually cool weather during bud break. If an outbreak of the disease occurs once, damage to a birch tree is minimal. But subsequent infections may cause small, circular, brown spots, ongoing premature loss of leaves or the killing of small twigs and branches.
Die-back fungus attacks birch trees that have been weakened by drought. Over time, the effects of die-back fungus become apparent in the continual die-back of a tree's upper branches. The disease can be treated by pruning the infected branches.
Leaf spot is a fungal disease that is common to birch trees. When a tree is infected with leaf spot, it is subject to premature defoliation. This disease is preventable by applying a copper spray.
Leaf rust is a fungal disease that can cause premature defoliation and spotting in birch trees. Leaves that have been infected with this disease are easy to detect--the rust pustules are bright reddish-yellow. The disease is spread by spores, which transport the infected pustules from leaf to leaf.