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.

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Yard and Garden: July 8, 2016

Yard & Garden for blog

This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for July 8, 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: Dr. Paul Read, Viticulture Specialist for Nebraska Extension with Guest Intern Vivian from China

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 caller of the day wanted to know if they can prune the Cleveland Pear tree that has branches that are low and too tight to the trunk?

A. The best time for pruning a tree like this would be while it is dormant. For a situation like this where the caller is only removing a few branches to help with the growth of the branches and to reduce future problems with the tight branch arrangement it would be fine to remove them now. It would be better to remove branches like this before they break in a storm due to weak attachment to the trunk.

2. A caller has Anjou pear trees that were planted in 2013. Now the bark from the graft union up about 10-12 inches has the bark peeling and now has some black leaves. What would cause this?

A. This would be from sunscald. There is no way to fix sunscald once it occurs. Don’t paint the wound with anything, allow it to heal itself. The black leaves could be due to fireblight. You can cut 6-8 inches past the diseased portion of the limb to cut the fireblight off the tree. The black could also be anthracnose which is not damaging to the plant and there is no need to spray anything for anthracnose.

sunscald-bugwood

Sunscald Photo by William Jacobi, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

3. This caller has an oak tree that is dripping sap on the vehicles parked under it. What would cause this?

A. Aphids feeding on the leaves of trees will excrete honeydew that can drip on vehicles underneath the tree. Aphids are not very damaging and have a lot of predatory insects that feed on them. They can be sprayed with sevin or eight or another general insecticide, but they should fade out on their own with predator insects.

4. A caller has blue spruce trees that look dirty but the tips are still green. What would cause this?

A. This is most likely due to environmental stress from the heat and humidity. If the ends of the branches are still green, the tree will be fine. Make sure your tree has a mulch ring around it and that you keep it well watered in the heat of the summer.

5. This caller has a patch of lilies where a quarter of the patch has only grown to be about 6 inches tall for the past 2 years. The rest of the patch looks good, but this area doesn’t look healthy. Can these be improved?

A. This could be due to hardiness in some varieties that are only suitable for our environment for a couple of years. It also could be due to some bulb mites. It would be a good idea to dig up some of the bulbs to see if they have any damage on the bulbs.

6. A caller has a pine tree with a lot of sap on the branches and the grass in the lawn won’t green up. Why is this?

A. Woodpeckers or insects feeding on a pine tree can cause sap to leak from the wounds left behind. The insects can be controlled with bifenthrin or permethrin (eight). If it is woodpeckers, the damage is minimal and will not cause any problems to the tree. Check how much water the lawn is actually receiving by using catch cans during the water intervals normally followed. Lawns need 1 1/2 inches of water per week. If the water is fine, there are a lot of fungal diseases in the lawn, it could be one of those. Fungal diseases in the home lawn are usually sporadic and therefore don’t require fungicide applications.

7. This caller lives on an acreage surrounded by farmground. She is considering growing grapes on this large plot of land. Are grapes easy to grow and would grapes have a benefit to the wildlife in the area?

A. Grapes are a large commitment, especially if you plan to sell products from them. You can be successful with only a few plants for the family to use for grape production. A few good choices for this area would include Frotenac or Valiant. The first year the grapes would need extra care, but after that they would be more self-sustaining. Deer will feed on the foliage. If you decide to grow your grapes for commercial use, register  your acreage with the driftwatch website at  www.fieldwatch.com to help avoid problems from drift since grapes are very sensitive to drift damage.

8. A caller has strawberries that were planted and now have very small fruits and the plants are not making runners.

A. Everbearing strawberries are typically very small for fruit size. You might try planting some newer varieties that are June bearing to get larger fruits. Some good choices would include honeoye or albion or sparkle.

9. This caller has an ash tree that is 7 years old and the tree snapped off in the wind. There is mold in the trunk and it is suckering. What can be done to plant a new tree?

A. You can get a company to come in and grind out the stump or rent a stump grinder to do it yourself. The suckers that keep growing back will continue to for a few years, they can be cut out and treated with a roundup or 2,4-D product. You can plant a new tree within just a few feet of the old tree, since this wasn’t a very large tree yet.

10. A facebook photo came in with a odd structure that appeared by a tree. What is this?

A. This would be a stinkhorn fungus. They are not harmful to the plants growing in the area. There is not control other than mechanical removal of the fungus. Do not eat these as they are not edible, they would be a poisonous mushroom.

DSCN6327

Stinkhorn Fungus

11. The last caller of the day has tomatoes in a raised bed. When they ripen for harvest, the end of the tomato seems blighted. What would cause this?

A. This is blossom end rot. It is a calcium deficiency that develops in our plants in drought situations because calcium is only available to plants after it has been dissolved in water. There is no control for this, it should only last for a few weeks early in the growing season and then the plants should grow out of it.