As is common among rusts, the life cycle of Cronartium ribicola includes two host species and goes through five spore stages. This life cycle is termed heteroecious. In the specific case of Cronartium ribicola, the aecial host of this pathogen is the white pine (Pinus subgenus Strobus, family Pinaceae) and the telial hosts are those of the genus Ribes, specifically currants and gooseberries. Species of both telial and aecial hosts have varying levels of resistance or immunity to infection. On the aecial host, the first signs of C. ribicola are yellow or red spots on the Pinus needles, but these are small and can be difficult to see; more visible symptoms on the aecial host includes perennial cankers which appear on the branches within two years of infection. Looking at the infected plant as a whole, the Pinus will appear chlorotic, and stunted with dead branches or tops that turn a bright red color. On the other hand, the telial host, Ribes, can contract yellowish chlorotic leaf spots, but is otherwise not significantly impacted. The signs of C. ribicola on Ribes, come in the form of the pathogen itself as orange pustules on the underside of the leaf.