I used to have several dwarf Indian hawthorns (Rhaphiolepis indica) lining the porch to my front door. They were lovely – evergreen in winter, blooms in spring, a beautiful backdrop to summer perennials. I heartily recommended these shrubs to anyone looking for a spring-blooming evergreen shrub.
That was before their outbreak of Entomosporium leaf spot (Entomosporium mespili). You may have noticed I used the past tense when describing my lovely shrubs. They all had to be removed.
Several years before their removal, it was obvious something was wrong. There were spots on the leaves. Leaves dropped. Finally, the bushes were more bare than evergreen. Since that time, I have noticed Entomosporium leaf spot on most of the Indian hawthorns I see in this area. There are some Indian hawthorns considered resistant to this disease, however, mine were a cultivar considered resistant, so that is no guarantee that your shrubs will not become infected.
Red tip photinias (Photinia x fraseri) are also affected by this same fungus. There are no resistant photinia cultivars, so many photinias in landscapes throughout the South have been removed due to Entomosporium leaf spot.
Although Indian hawthorns and red tip photinias are most commonly infected, Entomosporium leaf spot can also impact pyracanthas, quince, crabapple, and many other plants in the Maloideae family.
Can They Be Saved?
If your plants exhibit Entomosporium leaf spot symptoms, can they be saved? Perhaps. However, you would need to treat them early, with rotating applications of fungicides. Should you decide to remove infected plants, abelias are generally recommended instead of Indian hawthorns and cleyera in place of photinias. Or, you may want to plant something that has an entirely different look. I replaced my Indian hawthorns with a variety of butterfly-attracting plants.
Certified as a landscape design consultant, Lydia Holley is past President of Henderson County Master Gardener Association. Lydia lives on land that has been in her family for five generations, and like many gardeners, she tries to grow one of everything. A member of East Texas Writers Guild, Lydia’s short story, Three Dreams and An Angel, will be published this fall.