The appearance of mushrooms both stemmed and non-stemmed, could be a sign that a tree has contracted a disease and is now beginning to rot. If infected with a wood decay fungi, some of which are more aggressive than others, there is no way to remove the infection. Within a few years or sooner if the infection is widespread, an infected tree will die. In the US, billions of dollars are lost each year due to wood decay fungi attacking trees and even wood that is already in use.
Have you noticed a woody shelf of fungi growing on your tree? Your first action at this point should be identification so you can then decide how best to proceed.
Fungi Plays a Crucial Role in Our Ecosystem
Without fungi to break down the debris and dead wood produced by a forest, the ground would be piled high with waste material with nowhere to go. Fungi called saprophytes feed on dead matter and return it to the earth to be recycled by other plants and creatures.
Other fungi species, such as the red and white topped Amanita muscaria, exist in harmony with trees and can be found growing around the base of trees.
Then there are the wood decay fungi and these can be found on the trunks and branches of trees.
Old Trees are Susceptible to Wood Decay Fungi
Older trees can fall prey to wood decay fungi as over the years they may be wounded in some way, such as by fire, animals, carvings on the bark, or poorly executed pruning. Existing shelf mushrooms can produce up to 300 billion spores per day and these spores can travel miles, carried by wind. Once infected, a tree will slowly decline and could become hazardous to its surroundings in urban and suburban areas.
White Rot Fungi
All shelf or bracket fungi grow as their name suggests—in woody shelves or brackets. However, white rot fungi are slower and less aggressive than brown rot fungi but will still eventually kill an infected tree.
These types of fungi affect many kinds of trees, including citrus and fruit trees, and are often bright red, greyish-white, or brown and white. Look for the white patches on an infected tree to identify this type of fungi more easily.
Brown Rot Fungi
This type of fungi can kill a tree more quickly than white rot fungi. These types of fungi grow more quickly and appear reddish-brown, reddish-yellow and with a red band extending around the outer edge, this species of which attacks conifers.
Identifying the kind of wood decay fungi affecting your tree can prove difficult, though an arborist can help you to identify and treat an infection. Your tree may have years left or it may already be dead. Call an arborist or master gardener to help you identify and treat an infection, or remove the tree before it becomes a danger to you and your neighbours.