Fungi in the Landscape

Tree with Conks 3

Everyone loves a nice-looking landscape. However, sometimes unique structures appear in our landscape for seemingly no reason. Fungi can form in the lawn or on our plants. Sometimes these fungal structures look very unappealing, but that may be the only problem. However, there are times when these structures can be a sign of more problems with our plants.

Trees often develop different types of fungi on them. Some fungi develop as a green or whitish mold-like formation on the bark of the tree. This is not damaging to the tree. However, there are fungal formations on trees that can a sign of more damage to the tree. Conks or shelf fungi can form on the branches and trunks of our trees and look like shelves growing out of the tree. When you see a conk, you are seeing the outward formation of interior decay in the tree. Conks are indicators that your tree needs to be removed in the near future because the tree is decaying on the inside and therefore not as sturdy as it once was. If you have a tree with conks and would like to know if it should be removed, have a Certified Arborist inspect the tree.

Puffballs and mushrooms are commonly found in lawns. Both of these structures are fungal formations growing off of some type of decaying organic matter within the soil. They have no roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds like plants do. They have no chlorophyll which is why they are not green and why they cannot produce their own food. Mushrooms found in a lawn are most likely not edible. If you are not sure about a mushroom, do NOT eat it. There are a lot of poisonous mushrooms found that can cause severe illness and even death, it is best to avoid eating if you are not 100% sure of the mushroom.

Puffballs are the large round structures that have no stalk to hold them up off the ground. When they mature or are struck by a raindrop or kicked, the puffball opens up to spread the spores to new areas. Puffballs are common in the late summer to early fall. Mushrooms are the formations found in your lawns and gardens that do have a stalk to hold them up off the ground. Mushrooms look like an umbrella and are often found where a tree is or was recently removed as they live on the roots of the tree or the decaying roots of the dead trunk. Mushrooms are found in moist environments such as during rainy spring months or in an irrigated lawn.

Dog vomit fungus

Dog Vomit Fungus on landscape mulch

We also see many types of slime molds in the landscape. Slime molds typically show up on mulch in our gardens and can take on many different appearances. One of the best named slime molds would be the dog-vomit fungus which looks just as the name implies. There are also yellow, gray, white, off-white, orange, and brick red slime molds. All slime molds are aesthetic issues and cause no problems to your plants. If they bother you, they can be sprayed off the mulch with a strong spray of water.

DSCN6327

Stinkhorn fungus in a landscape

Stinkhorns are another type of fungus we may find growing in the mulch around our flowers. Stinkhorns are small, pink stalks sticking up out of the ground with a brown, slimy cap similar to the cap on a mushroom. Stinkhorns are so named because of the unpleasant odor they can have. This is another type of fungus that causes no harm to the plants and doesn’t need to be removed.

For fungi in the landscape, there is no method of control other than hand-removal. They are either not harmful to our plants or they are just showing us the demise of the plant that is already happening.

Advertisements

Yard and Garden: August 5, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for August 5, 2016. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through August 5, 2016. It can also be found on kutt995.com for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Guest Host: Graham Herbst, Community Forester Specialist with the Nebraska Forest Service

If you enjoy reading my Q&A from the show each week, take my quick survey at: http://go.unl.edu/9b24 and be entered to win a free plant book or some free UNL gifts.

1. The first question of the day was a walk-in client wondering what the weird structures in his yard were?

A. These would be fungal formations. The one that popped open is a puffball and the other is a type of mushroom. Neither of these are edible, they are both poisonous. They will develop in a yard from decaying roots of old or removed trees. They can be removed manually if you would like or they will go away on their own.

2016-08-05 10.14.05

Puffball on the left, Mushroom on the right

2. A caller has a small tree that is leaning that looks like a palm tree, what is it and why is it leaning?

A. After visiting the home after the show, it was determined that the tree was a sumac. It is leaning because that is the growth habit of a sumac. They tend to form a colony and lean every direction for sunlight.

3. A caller has a zucchini plant that just all of a sudden started dying off. Is this plant just done for the year or can something else be wrong with it?

A. This is probably due to squash vine borer. There is no way to fix the problem once it has gotten to the point of wilt and death. When you remove the plant, cut open the stalk to see the borer caterpillar. For the remaining plants use sevin, eight, or bifenthrin at the base of the plants to reduce the chances of those plants getting the borer as well. You can also wrap the base of the plant with aluminum foil or a toilet paper tube to protect it from borers laying eggs to bore into the plants.

4. A caller has cedar trees that have pine cone structures all over them that are killing the trees. What are these and how can they be controlled?

A. Those would be bagworms. At this time of the year it is too late to control them as their feeding has greatly reduced and possibly stopped for the year. Once they are in their bag the sprays cannot penetrate the bags to get to them so there is no need to spray now. Pick off and destroy all the bags you can get to and next spring watch for them sooner to spray at the correct time of the year.

Bagworm4

Bagworm

5. With bagworms, will sevin work for spraying them?

A. Yes. Sevin, eight, bifenthrin, tempo, malathion, or bT are all good insecticides to use when the bagworms are actively feeding.

6. A caller has wild cucumber growing on trees. How can this be controlled?

A. This weed has shallow roots and will pull out easily. You can treat with a herbicide, but not as a spray because that would harm or even kill the tree it is growing on. You can paint roundup on the leaves to help control it.

7. This caller has a mature maple tree that has mushrooms growing in the center of it. Can it survive?

A. It is best to manage the trees shape throughout the life of the tree to help it from having to have large branches removed. At this point there is no way to fix the hole and decay that have already begun. If the tree is in a location that it will not hit structures or people it can be left up longer, but it would be best to have a certified arborist come take a look at it to determine if the tree is safe to stand or needs to be removed.

8. A caller has a tree that the roots were exposed during work on the house nearby and then the roots were covered back up. Now, there are a lot of tree suckers coming up throughout the lawn. Can Tordon be used to control these?

A. Tordon is not labeled for use in a landscape setting. Also, using any type of insecticide on the suckers could harm or even kill the main tree. Since these suckers are all growing in the lawn, it would be best to just continually mow them off. The suckers appeared because the tree was stressed from the construction around the roots. Sucker stop can be used to slow the growth of the suckers but not completely eliminate them.

9. An email question was asked how to control locusts that are taking over a pasture?

A. Grazon is a good choice for pastures as a full foliage treatment during June. You can cut the stump and do a basal treatment anytime. Another choice would include Dicamba or a Trimec product that contains dicamba.

10. Another email question came in with a cottonwood tree that has brown tips on the leaves and lots of ants on the tree. Are the ants causing the problem? Can this be controlled?

A. The brown tips could be from sunscald which is due to the heat and drought we have faced lately. Aphids are probably also present on the tree which would bring the ants in to feed on their honeydew excretions. The ants are not harmful to the tree. The aphids are not causing much of a problem. Control measures are not necessary. Mulch the tree and water it to help with sunscald.

11. A caller from Iowa has hostas that were variegated in the leaves for the past 20+ years and now the leaves are solid green. What is causing this?

A. This is called reversion. The plant is a hybrid or cultivar that has reverted back to the original plant or parent plant with solid green leaves. It will not turn back into the variegated form.

12. A caller wanted to know why windbreaks and trees along creeks are being removed?

A. Sometimes the trees get old and start to become a hazard after they die. It also allows for more farming areas. These windbreaks are beneficial to wildlife, insects, and soil microbes and to help reduce water pollution from pesticide and fertilizer runoff.

13. The last caller of the 2016 season wanted to know when to transplant clematis, iris, peony, spirea, and general perennials?

A. all of these can be transplanted in the fall. Wait until mid to late September before doing this to get through the hot, dry weather. Could be done in the spring with some of these as well, but fall would be great.

Thanks for all of the great questions on the show and for reading the blog posts! I look forward to another great season of Yard and Garden Live in 2017!! Keep reading my blog for other great updates on keeping your yards and gardens “Green and Growing”!

Yard and Garden: June 17, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for June 17, 2016. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through August 5, 2016. It can also be found on kutt995.com for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.

Guest Host: Connie Fisk, Cass County Extension

1. The first caller of the day transplanted pear and maple trees in December. Recently, these trees turned brown and lost their leaves. What would cause this?

A. This year the weather has been ever-changing. The drastic change from wet and rainy to hot and dry has been hard on many of our plants. It sounds like these plants need watered. Water on a slow trickle about one time per week for 45 minutes-1 hour and make sure the trees have a mulch ring that is at least 2-3 feet out from the base of the tree and only about 2-3 inches deep.

2. This caller has a locust tree that he topped and wanted to use the removed branches to make a trellis for his vegetable garden. Now, the branches are sitting in a pile and sawdust has developed around them. What is this and is it concerning for his vegetable garden?

A. This would be either carpenter ants working on the decaying material of the branches or it could be another type of insect that is emerging from the branch that was developing in the branch over the winter months. This will not cause any problems to your vegetable garden.

*Note: It is not recommended to top a tree due to the weak, unproductive branches that will emerge from the tree.

3. A caller has scotch moss that she purchased for her fairy garden. She purchased it one month ago and has not had time to plant it into the fairy garden. Now, part of it has turned brown in the center of the plant. What can she do to fix this?

A. It should be planted into a garden or the fairy garden as soon as possible to ensure it gets room to grow. Also, this could be due to watering issues. She can prune out the dead growth and the rest should be fine if it gets planted.

4. This caller has 2 Northstar dwarf cherry trees that were planted this spring. One is fine but the other has not leaved out this spring. Will it survive?

A. No, it will probably not live at this point. It won’t hurt anything to leave it in for this growing season to see if it comes out of it, but it is late in the season for no growth to be on the tree. Water it early in the morning to try to help it come out of possible late dormancy.

5. A caller has apple trees that were planted last year. They are 6-7 feet tall. One tree is beginning to bend over from the top, the leaves are green with some yellow leaves throughout. What would cause this?

A. This could be due to fireblight. This is a bacterial diseases that can cause dead leaves and the end of the infected branches will bend over like a shepherds hook. Prune out the infected area by cutting back into the healthy area 8-12 inches past where the scorched area appears. Clean pruners in a bleach water solution between each cut to reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Do not compost infected branches.

6. A caller has a 30 foot tall blue spruce that they would like to trim off some of the bottom branches. Is this an ok practice?

A. Yes, that can be done. The branches removed will not regrow and underneath the weeds and grasses will need to be controlled. It would be best to then use mulch and/or a groundcover under the tree to help with weeds and mowing around it.

7. This caller has a peach tree that split down the middle of the trunk. Can it be saved?

A. No, any assistance will be just to help the tree limp along until death. It would be best to replace the tree at this point. Once the tree splits it is then open to disease and insect issues with no way to remedy it for long-term management.

8. A caller has maple trees that are 5 years old and now the trunks look like the bark is peeling off and you can see the inside. This damage is on the South and West sides of the tree. What is it from?

A. This would be sunscald, also called southwest disease because the damage occurs on the south and west sides of the tree. Sunscald occurs in thin barked trees during the winter when the cells of the tree rapidly freeze and thaw on warm winter days. Now that the damage has occurred there is no control for it. For new, thin barked trees, they should be wrapped during the winter months for the first few years of their lives. The damage is minimal and won’t kill the tree.

9. This caller has hollyhocks that the lower leaves are drying up and falling off of the plant. What would cause that? Also, there are mums blooming now. Can she cut them back?

A. This sounds like a fungal leaf disease due to the wet spring. Remove the leaves and destroy them. Mums can be pinched back throughout the summer months to keep them at a good size and to help with blooms in the fall. They can be pinched back until the 4th of July.

10. A caller wanted to know what causes blue-green algae in a lake?

A. It is a combination of environment, low water levels, and nutrients found in the lake. For more information visit: http://water.unl.edu/lakes/toxicalgae-faqs

11. This caller lost 2 peach trees and a plum to borers. Is it common? Did the tree have borers when it was purchased? Can others be saved?

A. Borers are common in peach trees. They can be treated. For information on treating these borers, visit the spray guides section on https://food.unl.edu/local-food-production

12. An email question came through with an algae problem in a birdbath. What can be done to control this algae?

A. This birdbath needs to be cleaned more often and scrubbed out to remove algae growing on the bottom of the birdbath. For more information visit: http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/waterbirds.shtml

13. A caller has a leaf tree that has developed peaches every year except for the past 2 years. What would be causing this?

A. A late frost has occurred the past 2 growing seasons which would cause a decrease if not an entire loss of the peaches that had begun before this frost occurred. There has also been low pollination the past couple of years due to wet spring during the pollination period.

14. This caller has a established silver maples that are suckering. Can this be sprayed with anything to stop the suckers from forming?

A. Unfortunately, no chemicals can be used on suckers because this growth is coming from the roots of the main tree. Chemicals used on the suckers will kill the entire tree. The best defense for suckers is to continually prune them out.

15. A caller has apples that tend to get worms and spots on the fruits. What can be done to help with these problems?

A. For backyard trees it might be best to just tolerate occasional insect and disease pests. If the problems are minimal, it is much less work to just cut out the bad spots for home use. You can use insecticides, just follow the regulations on the spray guides found at: https://food.unl.edu/local-food-production Sanitation is also important, remove and destroy all fruits off the tree and off the ground and leaves around the tree in the fall to destroy overwintering locations for these pests.

puffball

Puffballs are identified by their solid structure throughout the fruiting body, which is typically spherical in shape. (Photo from NebGuide Mushrooms, Fairy Rings, and Other Nuisance Fungi in the Landscape courtesy of R. Mulrooney, University of Delaware)

16. The final caller of the day has a fungus in the lawn that is like a ball on top of the ground that when pushed on releases many spores. What would this be?

A. This would be a puffball. A type of mushroom. There is no control for them, it is best to just remove the puffball structures as you see them and destroy them.