Fig tree rust is a common problem in the Gulf Coast states. My fig trees were growing well this year and from spring to late summer they had created a canopy dense enough that it made a nice little play area underneath. Callum started calling this area his “fig tree house.”
Then came Hurricane Isaac, and the trees went through days of heavy rain, followed by several weeks of wet weather. They never got a chance to dry out. One of the fig trees split in the storm, its 3 trunks fell outward and split where they met at the roots. I propped the three large limbs up with cinderblocks, hoping to reduce the exposure of the roots and encourage new roots to regrow and reinforce the upright position. At that time, it looked like the leaf damage was due to the physical damage from the storm. Before long, I realized that the ugly leaves were the first signs of disease. Both of the trees were getting a bad case of fig tree rust.
Since the weather stayed wet for so long, the trees lost a lot of leaves before I could go in and clean up some of the mess. I didn’t think it would be worth it to mess with them while they were wet, because this usually just contributes to the spread of rusts and other fungal diseases. It’s been pretty dry for several days now and the humidity is fairly low, so I finally went out to pull off most of the diseased leaves and rake up the leaf litter on the ground. Later I am going to burn all the dried up leaves to try and prevent any accumulation of the disease.
fig tree rust typically hasn’t been a problem for me with my fig trees, but it’s a pretty common disease in the Gulf Coast Region. It doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your fig’s production, since many trees, including mine, will continue to bear fruit after they are infected. However, it’s still good to reduce the spread as much as possible by keeping exposure of new foliage to a minimum. I hope a couple of hours of work on the trees will pay off with another good crop of fruit next year.