Toadstools, puffballs, dwarf benches and mushrooms are just a few of the names given to describe some of the fungi that can be affecting the health of your trees.
Formerly thought of as a group of simple plants lacking chlorophyll, fungi are now classified as a separate kingdom of living organisms. Fungi cause disease when a spore germinates on a susceptible host under the appropriate environmental conditions, producing hyphae (threads of fungal tissue) that enter and feed on the host.
Tree diseases caused by fungi can be broken down into four broad categories:
Root and Butt Rot Diseases – The diseases in this category infect and kill roots and cause decay of the roots and trunks of trees. These diseases can seriously impair the structural integrity of the trees they infect resulting in total tree failure often with little advanced notice.
Canker Diseases – These diseases commonly enter through wounds or branch stubs. The pathogen infects the bark tissue resulting in a sunken or discolored area of bark on branches or stems. Since many canker infections originate through branch stubs, the use of proper pruning techniques is very important in the prevention of canker diseases.
Foliar / Shoot Diseases – These types of diseases are some of the most commonly encountered plant diseases. Symptoms range from small spots to large blotches on leaves and needles and death of entire leaves, needles and shoots. Impact to plant health from foliar and shoot diseases can range from minor aesthetic damage to death of entire plants.
Vascular Wilts – Trees die quickly when wilts invade their vascular system, interrupting the transport of water and nutrients.
Management Options – Since fungal tree diseases cannot be treated in a curative fashion, management efforts must focus on prevention. The best defense against tree pathogens is a healthy tree. Tree and site selection, watering during periods of drought, and regular maintenance fertilization are the keys to maintaining healthy landscape trees. Fungicides are technical materials that control certain foliar/shoot diseases by inhibiting the growth of fungi when applied preventively (before infection occurs).
An integrated plant management (IPM) program such as SavATree’s Arbor Patrol Program incorporates cultural, biological, and chemical control measures through routine monitoring of both the trees and pathogens. The selection of the appropriate method(s) of control is based upon the overall impact of the disease on plant health and landscape aesthetics.
This overview of the fungi that infect trees barley scratches the surface of the fungal world. Please consult with your arborist to determine the best course of action to protect your landscape.
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