Blister rust is native to China and was accidentally introduced to North America around 1900. It is devastating to white pines and, in turn, the ecosystems around them. The complex life cycle of blister rust requires two hosts, white pine, and currant or gooseberry plants. Some Indian paint brush has also been detected with blister rust.
If blister rust is discovered on a few limbs of a tree, and those limbs are pruned, the tree may be saved. If it is infecting the trunk of the tree, it will be lost. Pruning, while somewhat effective, is costly and time-consuming.
The method of controlling blister rust for many years was to destroy the alternate host, breaking the cycle of the fungus. That meant rooting up currant and gooseberry plants. The program to destroy those plants on Forest Service land lasted from 1916 to 1967. Ultimately, it wasn’t really working. During that time, though, arborists were identifying blister rust resistant trees. Cultivating those trees over the years has resulted in a variety of western white pine that is about 50 percent resistant to blister rust. Replacing stands with more disease resistant trees is the main strategy to control blister rust today.