Hickory trees not only add stunning beauty to your landscape, but they also provide edible nuts that attract squirrels and other wildlife onto your land. Once in a while, however, a hickory tree will come down with a disease and its natural beauty will begin to wane. If your hickory tree is looking a little worse for wear, it's important to determine which disease is to blame, so you know whether you should treat the disease or have the tree removed.


If your hickory tree's leaves are developing spots, but the tree otherwise appears to be healthy, anthracnose is likely to blame. This fungal disease causes purple spots to form on green leaves. As the spots, which are really clumps of fungal spores, age, they turn brown and crusty.

Anthracnose is not generally life-threatening, but it can cause the tree to lose some of its leaves prematurely. This can weaken the tree and make it more susceptible to other more serious diseases. Keep anthracnose at bay by clearing fallen leaves away from the base of the tree promptly, and having your tree pruned to let more air flow between its branches.

Root Rot Disease

If there are large brackets growing out of your hickory's trunk, it has root rot disease. Caused by any number of fungal species, this disease causes the wood within the trunk to become spongy and soft. The tree slowly loses its ability to carry water to its upper branches, and will slowly die. Entire branches may lose their leaves. There is no cure for root rot diseases in hickories, but with the proper care, you may be able to extend your tree's life. Keep debris cleared away from the tree's trunk to keep fungal growth to a minimum, and fertilize the tree to increase its vigor.

Canker Disease

Most common in the Northeastern region of the United States, canker disease causes ulcers to form on a hickory tree's trunk and branches. These ulcers are typically black in color, and they may release a black ooze.  Canker diseases  progress quickly, and they can claim a tree's life in just several years. However, if you catch the infection early on, having the cankers cut out of the tree's trunk may save its life.

If you have a hickory tree in your backyard, keep a close eye on it for signs of infection. Diseases in hickory trees are less common than in walnut or chestnut, but they do occur. Contact a tree care service like Smitty's Tree Service Inc if you're ever in doubt that a symptom your tree is displaying is a sign of serious disease.