Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Conks mean Trouble for Trees and People!!

A conk is the fruiting body of a fungus that infects trees. Trees exhibiting conks, bracket fungi, or mushrooms on the bark are hazardous to your health as well as the health of the tree.

By the time a fruiting body is visible, decay is extensive throughout the interior of the tree. The conk on this juniper is most likely Juniper Pocket Rot (Pyrofomes demidoffii).

According to Gail Durham, Forest Health Specialist. Nevada Dept of Forestry, "this white rot fungus creates "small pockets filled with white to yellowish cottony fibers of decay .. the tree’s foliage declines, thins out and only small tufts are seen near the end of the branches." http://forestry.nv.gov/?page_id=436.

These pockets of light-colored spongy masses are separated by thin areas of firm wood. As more pockets of woody tissue become infected and decay, less and less firm wood is present to keep the tree from failing. These decayed spongy areas can extend 13 feet or more in either direction from the fruiting body of the fungus making infected trees a serious hazard to people and property. There is no telling when infected trees will fail and fall.

Some of the junipers in this neighborhood park have small tufts of needles near the end of the branches. No conks are visible on the trunk but the trees certainly exhibit the symptoms described by Ms. Durham.

White rot fungi invades trees through wounds such as those caused by humans and insects. The next photo shows the exit holes of one of the borers.

What can you do about trees infected with this or any other white rot fungus? Not a thing other than remove them before they break off and kill someone. Such trees are hazardous to your health.
Be sure to stay a safe distance away from any tree that has conks, mushrooms or bracket fungi on it trunk. Teach your children to recognize these strange growths so they will know not to play around white rot infected trees.

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