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Fungal Conks: Are they dangerous to my tree?

Fungi: While fascinating, they can also be alarming when spotted around your trees or in your landscape. Ultimately, all species of fungi have a purpose, which is to decompose decaying matter in nature. We often see them growing in turf areas where there might be high organic composition in the soil. Fungi is typically a good sign that shows soil fertility; mycorrhizal fungi in the soil is key to the good health of your entire landscape. But not all “mushrooms” tell you a good story. If you see fungal conks growing directly on your tree trunk, then it’s time to call in a tree professional.

Fungal Conk

What are fungal conks?

Fungal conks are the fruiting bodies of mycelium. Mycelium is the vegetative system of the fungi that is typically growing underground or under the bark of your tree. If you have ever dug through thick mulch that has is white strands holding pieces together, then you have seen mycelium. When found in soil or mulch, this is most likely a good thing, as it’s simply decomposing the mulch. However, if you find a visible fruiting body, or fungal conk, growing on the trunk of your tree, then your tree is infected by fungus, and not the good kind.

Fungal Conk Off Tree

Cool to look at. Not cool for your tree.

What is it doing to my tree?

Fungal pathogens enter your tree through open wounds in the bark or root system of the tree. The most common injury or damage to your trees is caused by improper pruning, mowers, weed trimmers, construction and wildlife such as squirrels. These fungal infection can be thriving in your tree for many years before the fruiting bodies even appear. Fungal conks can appear anywhere on the tree, but are most commonly seen on the base of trunk especially at the root flare of the tree (near the soil level). As the fungal infection grows inside your tree it begins to break down and degrade the cellulose tissue (that’s what holds your tree together). The tree begins to lose structural integrity and can begin dropping large branches. If left untreated, it could eventually completely topple over during a storm or will need to be removed.

My tree has fungal conks. What do I do?

If the fungal infection is isolated to a single branch and caught early enough, the infected branch can be removed to save the tree. Certain nutrient injections or other treatments can be applied to the tree to slow down an infection and help the tree recover, if the infection isn’t deemed to be too widespread. However, if there is predominant decay, it could mean your tree is too unsafe to let stand.

If you notice fungal conks growing on your tree contact a professional right away to help you properly diagnose the problem and create a plan.

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