Turkey Tail Fungus: Everything You Need to Know

In many ways, fungi represent some of the most important and omnipresent threats to trees.

Many fungi subsist almost entirely on the tissues of trees, and thanks to their reproductive strategy, their spores can be found nearly everywhere. And unfortunately, scientists estimate that there are millions of fungal species in the world.

Below, we’ll explain the basics of one such species and discuss how it may affect your trees. The species is known to biologists and arborists as Trametes versicolor, but most people simply call it what it looks like: the turkey tail fungus.

Turkey Tail Identification

Turkey tail fungus is named for its resemblance to a turkey’s tail – that’s plain to see when you look at it. In general appearance, it looks like a vaguely semicircular fan, with rings of varying colors (in fact, “versicolor” means “of several colors”). The fan-shaped fungus is only a millimeter or two thick, but it occasionally reaches 4-inches in diameter.

Note that when we describe the turkey tail fungus, we are really only discussing the fruiting body or mushroom – a structure that biologists call a sporocarp. The bulk of the organism grows as thin fibers called mycelia, which are found inside the tree or soil.

Turkey tail fungus does look somewhat similar to a few other species. The best way to distinguish it from its lookalikes relies on subtle characteristics, such as pore size. This is generally outside of the capabilities of amateurs, so while you can often arrive at a tentative identification of the fungus, you’ll likely need professional help to arrive at a positive identification.

Trees Vulnerable to Turkey Tail Fungus

It’s hard to know for sure, but many biologists believe that turkey tail may be the most common decomposer of hardwood trees in the United States. The species is, in fact, absurdly common, and you can probably find it during a brief walk through any hardwood forest.

Nevertheless, while it does occasionally attack conifers, turkey tail fungus is primarily a threat to hardwoods. A few of its most common targets include the following:

  • Crape myrtles
  • Apples
  • Plane trees
  • Maples
  • Walnuts
  • Willows
  • Tuliptrees
  • Oaks
  • Sweet gums
  • Eucalyptus
  • Elms

However, it is important to remember that turkey tail fungus can affect an incredibly broad subsection of trees, so you don’t want to rely on its host species to confirm or disconfirm its identity.

Turkey tail fungus is likely most commonly seen on dead trees, shed branches and old firewood, but it also attacks living individuals. It most commonly attacks wounded trees (or those that have been improperly pruned), but it is also a problem for trees that have become stressed by improper care, water stress or disease.

Sequalae: What Happens When Turkey Tail Fungus Infects a Tree

Turkey tail fungus – like many other fungi – digests and decomposes the structural elements of a tree’s cells. Turkey tail primarily attacks a component of the tree’s cell walls, called lignin.

Lignin is typically dark brown in color, which means that when the fungus destroys it, the infected wood often becomes very pale or white in color. This is part of the reason turkey tail is said to cause white rot (as opposed to brown rot, which is caused by other fungi).

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If you suspect that some of your trees have become infected with turkey tail virus, give your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants a call and we’ll have one of our certified and experienced arborists visit your property.

Should Homeowners Prune Their Own Trees?

While homeowners and property managers can certainly perform minor pruning tasks, significant pruning jobs should always be left to professionals.

Tree pruning is not only incredibly dangerous, but it requires considerable expertise and skill to ensure the tree has the best chance of recovering and thriving. Because few amateurs are equipped to mitigate the dangers involved or sufficiently educated in tree care to avoid harming the tree, it is generally wisest to have a certified arborist carryout this type of maintenance.

Consider the following guidelines when trying to determine if a given task requires professional assistance:

Can you access the target branches from the ground?

Amateur tree pruners should never leave the ground when working. Climbing a tree requires a variety of tools and equipment that few homeowners have, and it also requires a wealth of knowledge regarding safe tree-climbing practices.

It is also important that you do not use a ladder to access high branches. Ladders and pruning are a dangerous combination, which leads to dozens of serious injuries each year. Contact an arborist any time you must access branches more than about 6 or 7 feet above the ground.

How large are the target branches?

Generally speaking, large branches are more dangerous to remove than small branches, and their removal represents a greater threat to the tree than the removal of small branches. Accordingly, you’ll probably want to contact a certified arborist if you need a branch removed that has a diameter in excess of an inch or two.

Are you trained in the proper operation of a chainsaw?

Chainsaws are incredibly effective and helpful, yet dangerous tools, which cause life-changing accidents each year. And while chainsaws are typically treated as standard household tools, they require far more respect than many people give them. If you plan to use a chainsaw to prune your trees, be sure to enroll in a chainsaw safety course first to avoid potentially deadly accidents.

Is the tree healthy or are you removing the branches in response to stress or disease?

Pruning a diseased tree requires more care and expertise than routine pruning. So, while you may be capable of pruning your fruit trees to improve their form, you should probably contact a tree-care expert if you are trying to remove a diseased, mushroom-ridden or pest-infested branch. Only by doing so can you be reasonably sure you won’t make the problem worse.

Do you have the necessary safety gear?

Minimally, you’ll need a hard hat and safety goggles or glasses to prune a tree. However, you’ll also need steel-toed boots, ear protection, and protective chaps if you will be using a chainsaw. You may also want a pair of thick gloves, to help prevent splinters and cuts.

Do you know the proper cutting techniques to use when pruning?

Improper cutting techniques can create jagged wounds, which will take the tree longer to seal up. In some cases, it can even cause the removed limb to strip bark from the trunk, thereby exposing a large portion of the tree to pests and pathogens.

To avoid creating these types of wounds, arborists typically use the three-cut method to remove large limbs. The three-cut technique requires that the pruner cuts halfway through the target branch from the bottom (about 1 foot away from the trunk or parent branch) first. Then, another cut is made about 6 inches inside the first cut, but this time it is made from the top to the bottom. The first cut severs the fibers from the bottom of the branch, preventing them from stripping the trunk bark, and the second cut releases the limb. The third and final cut is placed about 1 to 2 inches outside the branch collar and serves to remove the remaining stump.

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If you need help pruning the trees in your yard, contact your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants. One of our trained tree-care experts will visit your property, assess the trees in question and recommend a proper course of action. And, if pruning is the right course of action, we’ll already be on hand to carry out the work.

Avoid These 6 High-Litter Trees to Keep Your Yard Looking Great

We often receive calls from local citizens, particularly those in Bel Air, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, who are frustrated with the litter their trees strew across their otherwise immaculate landscapes. But this needn’t be the case – in fact, through careful tree selection, you can usually reduce the amount of leaves, fruit, sticks and seeds that fall upon your lawn.

Six High-Litter Offenders

All trees produce some amount of litter. Male flowers will eventually end up on the ground below, as will uneaten fruit and seeds. Leaves are another source of litter, and even evergreen species eventually drop their leaves to the ground below. But some trees are much bigger offenders than others.

The following six species are noteworthy for producing copious amounts of litter. And although they may be great trees for other locations, they aren’t great choices for homeowners seeking to keep a tidy landscape.

1. Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

Horse chestnut trees are widely celebrated for their attractive flowers, but they produce large quantities of nuts, which will fall off the tree throughout the summer. These nuts are not only large enough to cause people to trip or stumble, they are very toxic, which represents an additional safety hazard.

2. California Walnut (Juglans californica)

While walnut trees are generally beloved for their stately charm and delicious nuts, these nuts can create quite a litter problem underneath the tree. Making matters worse, the nuts are not only unsightly (and potential trip hazards), they can stain sidewalks and other surfaces.

3. Female Maidenhair Trees (Gingko biloba)

Maidenhair trees are very desirable landscaping species, whose fall foliage is out of this world. However, female maidenhair trees produce copious quantities of foul-smelling and messy fruit. Fortunately, most maidenhairs sold via retail outlets are cloned males, who produce no such fruit, but it is wise to verify the sex of any maidenhair trees you plan on installing.

4. Chilean Acacia Trees (Prosopischilensis)

Chilean acacias are well-suited for homes throughout California, including the Bel Air – Beverly Hills – Santa Monica corridor, as they are very drought-tolerant trees who remain relatively small. However, they produce a ton of dry fruit, which will soon cover every square inch of your property. Some varieties also shed sticks and very sharp thorns, making them a bad choice for homeowners who appreciate neat and tidy lawns.

5. Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)

Sweetgums are gorgeous trees for properties with adequate soil moisture, but they are infamous for the hard, spiky “gumballs” they pour all over the ground. Fortunately, there are fruit-less sweetgum varieties available in the marketplace, which solve most of the litter problem (they will still, of course, shed plenty of yellow, red and purple leaves each fall).

6. Mulberries (Morus spp.)

Both red and white mulberry trees produce substantial litter problems. Throughout the late spring and early summer, the trees produce plump, juicy mulberries, which feed several different wildlife species – particularly birds. However, birds aren’t able to eat all of the berries, and many will fall onto hardscapes below, where they’ll cause very dark stains.

If you are experiencing problems with the litter produced by your trees, contact your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants a call. Not only can we help you find some low-litter replacements, we may even be able to help you reduce the amount of litter your existing trees produce, through clever pruning and maintenance practices.

 

Pacific Palisades Tree Failure

In June 2006 in Pacific Palisades, a large carob tree fell over and crushed an unoccupied SUV. The street was closed while emergency crews cleared the street. A couple days later, a large limb off a eucalyptus tree fell a block from where the carob had failed. NazairoSauceda, from the Bureau of Street Services in the Public Works Department, commented on the tree failure, “We are investigating the tree that failed. They don’t fail like that typically.” The carob tree failed at the root ball and when it fell over, it totaled the SUV. Michael McRoskey, the owner of the SUV, said, “The scary part is if someone had been driving down that street around noon, they’d be dead.”

Tree failures are caused for a number of reasons, and each tree needs to be inspected individually for signs of over-weighted canopy, root damage due to construction, or overwatering and underwatering.

Before this incident, two other carob trees had failed at their roots and three other eucalyptus trees had shed large branches in Pacific Palisades. Residents have expressed concern over the potential hazards, but street tree superintendent Ron Lorenzen explained that there are about 700,000 street trees that are on a pruning schedule, but that the city only has funding to trim about a tenth of those trees each year. That means that the trees are on about a nine to ten year pruning schedule.

One local arborist commented that the city needs to have more funding up front for the care of the trees instead of having to pay legal expenses for damages once a tree fails.

Evergreen Arborists Consultants, Inc. has experience in examining thousands of trees. We evaluate a tree’s signs and symptoms ranging from decay, poor branch structure, poor pruning and maintenance practices, and roots.Please call us today for a consultation.

Malibu Trees

Trees

Trees

State Parks workers, working to replace rocks that had fallen off the revetments in response to wintertime erosion of the sea wall, removed a coral tree growing within the sea wall. The sea wall needed emergency repairs to preserve the historic Adamson House at the Malibu Lagoon State Beach. Suzanne Goode, senior staff scientist with State Parks, said the tree was not native to the area. “The tree was growing out of the sea wall, and it had to be removed in order for us to protect the sea wall. We are sorry that we had to remove the tree,” she said. Malibu resident Andy Lyon, an opponent of the Malibu Lagoon State Beach overhaul plan, said the tree was planted by surfers in 1971 and didn’t need to be removed. He expressed concern that this incident was indicative of how the lagoon overhaul – a plan to replace non-native vegetation with native vegetation – will occur. “If this is any indication of how the lagoon project will be handled, it’s not a good sign,” he said.

 

Tree Damage in Malibu

sycamore-tree-failure

sycamore-tree-failure

Approximately 1,800 Southern California Edison customers in Malibu were without power after a Sycamore tree along Ramirez Canyon Road fell onto a power line. Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander said of the outage, “The tree fell on the power line, knocking power out.” The traffic lights at Pacific Coast Highway and Paradise Coast Road also went out. Lt. Josh Thai of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sherriff’s Station cautioned drivers to treat a traffic light power outage as a four-way stop sign. The tree caused the power outage at 4:46 pm and Southern California Edison started rerouting power once it detected the outage. By 6:54 pm, power had been restored to all but 40 customers.


 

Portland Fines For Removing Nuisance Trees

Portland, Oregon has strict measures in place that reduce the likelihood that property owners will replace nuisance trees with non-nuisance trees. The city code is set up to protect the city’s mature canopy, so healthy nuisance tree removal comes with a mitigation fee of $300 per inch of diameter measured at four and a half feet from the ground. For each newly planted tree, the penalty is reduced.

This policy is called into question when Norway maples are what property owners want to remove. Norway maples have shallow root systems that damage sidewalks and streets. They also spread quickly and outcompete other plants, are prone to disease, and are likely to drop large limbs.

One property owner who wanted six matching trees on his property – he had three that were Norway maples – was told he couldn’t put in three more Norway maples because they were listed as nuisance trees. When he said he would cut his existing three Norway maples down to replant with six non-nuisance trees, he was told that the mitigation fee would be about $10,050.