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Mr. Smarty Plants - Possible fungal infection of oak trees in Mastic Beach, NY.

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Tuesday - June 19, 2012

From: Mastic Beach, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Possible fungal infection of oak trees in Mastic Beach, NY.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Sir, I have a yard full of HUGE Oaks. The one in question is about 80' tall 48" in diameter at the base. They are all well maintained fed and trimed and elevated every 3 or 4 years. About 4 years ago I noticed dense white growths comming up around the tree. They are in the 12" to 24" radius range around the tree. Its white mushroom in color but extremely dense. they only show up from june to september they grow rapidly. I must remove them with a sharp knife. I go down about 3" below grade, cut a circle and pop it out. few days later i must do it again. The tree is healthy. to the point where i had an arborist do a core sample for ants. Its solid straight through, no decay. But he has no idea what they are. Your thoughts? I have no issue maintaining the growth, but it makes my lawn look like crap around this 1 tree. I have contemplated roto-tilling a 24" path around the tree and planting flowers. That's my last resort. Also, the roots are deep there is no root damage, i thought it may be trying to repair itself. They just seem to make the earth extremely hard around this one tree, and grow out of this real hard cement like dirt. I'm clueless. help!

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty plants hasn’t personally witnessed the phenomenon that you are describing, but it sounds like a fungus in the order Polysporales. These are commonly called polypore mushrooms and include the bracket fungi or shelf fungi which often grow on tree trunks, but can grow on the ground if  there is a food source, possibly the roots of your oak trees. Since your arborist didn’t know what they are, I may be completely off base.

This website from mushroomexpert.com has descriptions of numerous species of polypores along with photos. Two possibilities for you situation are Grifola and Laetiporus which are known as “Hen of the Woods” and “Chicken of the woods” respectively. (see also) This implies to me that they may be good to eat.

You need to have someone who is knowledgeable about fungi (a Mycologist) take a look at your situation and make recommendations. You might find such a person at the Suffolk County office of Cornell Cooperative Extension. Another possibility could be to contact the Cornell Mushroom Club . Those students might jump at the chance to make a field trip down to the “big city” to take a look at your oaks.

 

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