What Is Fungus?
Fungus is a growth or tree ailment that’s relatively commonplace for trees. If fungal spores come into contact with a tree that’s already ill or not as strong as it once was, it can mean the end for the tree. While it may sound like doom and gloom around tree fungus, there are actually some forms of tree fungus that don’t do much to harm a tree (think of it like they’re looking for a host), and other forms of fungus can actually go completely unnoticed.
How Does a Tree Get a Fungus?
Fungus spores can be transmitted in many ways—on the wind, via an animal, by a human who’s been in contact with fungal spores, or even through contaminated gardening tools. It’s also possible that hard rains can splash the ground and cause spores to transfer onto the tree. There’s really no way to ever prevent a tree from getting a fungus, as fungal spores are constantly around trees and shrubs. However the fungus is transmitted, once it’s there, it will stay there.
Signs of Tree Fungus or Fungal Diseases
Fungal disease will be noticeable in a couple of ways. The bark, roots, or leaves of the tress may start to change color or you might notice growths on these surfaces. It can also present itself in wilting leaves or structurally compromised needles. It might also look like there was some sort of dusting of pollen or powder on parts of the tree, and this can be a way that a fungus shows itself.
Sections of the tree might start to look sickly, wilted, or die off. In this sense, “dying off” can mean that instead of growing and flourishing during the growing season, parts continue to look poorly and drop their leaves instead of thickening up and growing fuller.
Generally speaking, trees have evolved to have their own built-in defenses, or resistance, to fungi. Much like a human being, a tree has a sort of immune system that fights off foreign infection. And while trees can fight off many diseases, it’s time to “call the doctor” when a tree is clearly not improving.
What If It Is a Harmful Fungus?
If the tree continues to look sickly and the symptoms have continued to get worse since you first suspected infection, it’s time to call an arborist to do a tree inspection. Sometimes the specific areas can be treated or pruned, but sometimes, it’s too late and it makes more sense to remove the tree and replace it. Diseased trees are a hazard to have in your yard. They can drop branches, fall over, or even spread infections to other trees in the neighborhood. A certified arborist will be able to assess your tree and make the best decision.
What Are Some Recognizable Types of Tree Fungus?
You might have heard of a few types of harmful fungi, such as root rot, butt rot, heart rot, oak wilt, sooty mold, powdery mildew disease, canker tree disease, or even rust, like the cedar-apple rust. With so many thousands of varying fungal diseases, an expert will be able to help identify the type on your tree and offer treatment solutions, if there are any.
With advanced forms of tree fungus and rot, the biggest thing to look out for is the structural integrity of the tree. As the fungus eats away at the tree, the branches, the trunk, or other parts of the tree might start to fall apart. It is extremely important to tend to a tree that has structural issues so no one is hurt and nothing is damaged by falling branches.
How Do I Protect My Trees?
One thing you can do is put the tree on a pruning schedule and only do it during the recommended time of the year for the particular species. For example, deciduous trees should be pruned in the later part of winter or early in the spring to optimize growth come warmer temperatures. This limits the amount of time that their pruned areas will be “open” or potentially exposed to fungal spores.
Verifying that the tree has proper drainage and making sure it isn’t overwatered can help keep the tree healthy and avoid any unnecessary risks of fungal infection. You can also decrease environments for fungus to take hold by removing old leaf piles from the yard, making sure that there isn’t any buildup of yard waste near the trees, and leaving a few inches of a gap between any mulch and your tree trunks.
What Can Happen to the Tree?
Again, the biggest issue related to a fungal infection will be weakened wood. If the wood is weak and not able to hold itself up, there’s only one thing that can happen—it will eventually fall to the ground. It doesn’t necessarily take a big storm or gust of wind to rip off a part of the tree. It can be that it just can’t bear the weight of the limbs anymore, and there can be no warning of things falling.
It’s not worth taking any chances. It may “just” be a limb that looks sick, but without proper inspection of the tree, you might not know about the hollowed-out trunk or root rot. When a storm or strong gust of wind does hit, it could easily knock the tree over onto people or property.
Can I Get Sick from a Tree Fungus?
Although tree fungus is pretty specific to trees, nature and evolution are always opportunistic. There is a slight chance that people can get sick from other species, but both the tree and the person would have to be in really poor health. It’s vastly unlikely to transfer the fungus between tree and person.
If you believe that your tree has a fungal infection and would like to schedule a tree inspection, call Mr. Tree today and schedule an appointment. Our experts can not only help with an assessment, but also can assist with future steps of action.