Check your peach trees for peach mummies

November 01, 2011|By KAREN SECHLER |
  • This peach mummy is hanging from a darkened infected branch. The mummy, as well as the branch, should be removed. The dark, gummy areas on the peach were caused by insect damage.
Submitted photo

For the last few days, many people, young and old, have been participating in Halloween-related activities.

They dressed in costumes, attended parties and consumed candy.

Some people even decorated their yards and homes for the festivities.

Whether or not you celebrated the holiday, you might have unknowingly decorated for it if you have a peach tree in your yard.

Go outside and take a peek.

Do you have any brown shriveled seeds hanging from your tree or laying on the ground? If so, you may have peach mummies.

Peach mummies are the result of a disease known as brown rot. It is a very common fungal disease in Maryland and in other peach-growing areas. It is most prevalent when there is a lot of moisture during the growing season. Peach blossoms, stems and fruit are all susceptible to infection.  

Fruit that is infected with brown rot has brown circular spots that enlarge over time.  Brown or gray mold might be present on the surface of the rotting fruit.

If this mold is visible, then spores are likely being produced. Spores are like fungal seeds and can be spread to other peaches or peach trees by wind, rain, insects and humans.  

Like a seed, once a spore lands in a nice “peachy” environment, it germinates and grows on and within the fruit. After the fungus feeds, the remainder of the fruit rots and dries up leaving an infected mummified peach. It is within this mummy that the fungus survives the winter. Then, in the spring, it is ready to grow and infect again.  

The fungus that causes brown rot of peach is monilinia fructicola. It also causes brown rot on other stone fruits such as cherry and plum. Similar to peaches, cherries and plums are also fleshy fruits with a single seed inside a pit or stone. This is why they are referred to as stone fruits.

There are several practices that can be done to manage brown rot. They include removing the fungus, increasing air circulation, reducing the insect population, minimizing fruit handling and maintaining the tree.  

Fungus removal: Remove mummies on and around your trees as soon as they are noticed. Remove infected twigs and branches. Infected branches might be discolored or have cankers. Sprays that contain sulfur or a fungicide can also be helpful. Handle all pesticides carefully and according to the label. The best time to spray peach blossoms are when they are 5 percent and 90 percent open. A regular spray schedule can also be used every 7 to 14 days as needed with the last spray being two weeks before harvest.

Increasing air circulation: Conduct annual dormant pruning in late winter and thin fruit when it is developing. (Note: fruit thinning usually allows for larger fruit).  

Insect management: Minimize grass and weeds around your tree to remove insect hiding places and alternative food sources. Collect insects into buckets of soapy water  (Note: insects are great pollinators, so, not all insects are bad).

Fruit handling: Gently, pick and transport fruit to prevent bruising. Injury allows fungi to enter.

Fertilizing: Take a soil sample and fertilize based on those recommendations. Water your tree regularly. Mulch with a thin layer of compost.           

Soon, summer will return and it will be nice to enjoy another fresh juicy peach from the yard.  

Karen Sechler is a horticulture educator with the University of Maryland Extension in Washington County. She can be reached by calling 301-791-1604 or sending an email to

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