Hellebore leaf spot
Hellebore leaf spot is a common fungal disease of many hellebore species. It infects leaves and stems giving rise to roundish, dead, brown spots.
Scientific name: Microsphaeropsis hellebori (syn. Coniothyrium hellebori)
Plants affected: Helleborus spp.
Main symptoms: Brown patches on leaves and stems
Caused by: Fungus
Timing: Spring through to Autumn
What is hellebore leaf spot?
Hellebore leaf spot is caused by the fungus Microsphaeropsis hellebori and is a common disease on many hellebore species. You are most likely to see infections when new plant growth is occurring from late winter until summer.
It attacks most Helleborus spp. but is not so damaging on the tougher leaves of Helleborus argutifolius. H. niger is particularly badly affected by leaf spot.
You may see the following symptoms:
- On leaves: Infections cause more-or-less round, dead, brown patches on leaves and stems. Later, the dead leaf tissue may fall out, leading to a ragged appearance
- On stems: Infections on the stems may cause them to collapse
- On flowers: Dark spots and blotches can also develop on the flowers
- Tiny, black fruiting structures of the fungus may be visible in the dead plant tissue
- Heavy infection in early spring can lead to widespread blackening of leaves and stems that could be mistaken for damage from adverse weather conditions
The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.
- Remove all affected leaves promptly and destroy
- Do not allow dead, infected material to remain around the plants, since this will be a source of infection in the following season
The fungicide tebuconazole with trifloxystrobin (Provanto Fungus Fighter Plus, Toprose Fungus Control & Protect) has a recommendation for the control of leaf spots on ornamental plants. Additonally, the fungicides tebuconazole (Provanto Fungus Fighter Concentrate) and triticonazole (Fungus Clear Ultra) are labelled for the control of other diseases on ornamental plants, and could therefore be used legally on hellebore (at the owner’s risk) to try and control the leaf spotting.
The following products contain a combination of both insecticide and fungicide, enabling the control of both damaging invertebrates and disease: triticonazole containing acetamiprid (Roseclear Ultra, Roseclear Ultra Gun). When a proprietary product contains an insecticide as well as a fungicide it would be preferable to use an alternative product if invertebrate (e.g. aphid) damage is not a problem on the plants treated.
Inclusion of a product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.
Fungicides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining fungicides available to gardeners)
The fungus causing hellebore leaf spot produces minute spores from small black fruiting bodies that form in the dead, affected tissues. The spores are spread in water and wind-blown rain and thus wet conditions are required to initiate disease. The fungus perpetuates on the plant over the summer and autumn and a new round of infections is intiated at times when new plant growth is occurring.
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