Category: Plant Healthcare

Shelf and Bracket Fungus

Shelf or bracket fungi tend to grow in somewhat circular shapes. They can be parasitic, saprotrophic (decomposing) or both. Many times these fungi can kill the tree they infest and then continue to live on it for years after its death. Some species have multi-colored growth rings just like the trees they eat.

A few of these are edible! Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom) is commonly cultivated for food. Polyporus squamosus, or Dryad’s Saddle is listed by many sites as an edible. Be sure you learn your Shroom ID before gnawing on one of these. I AM NOT a shroom IDer… That is why I did not caption the above photos 😉

Sadly, once a tree is infected, the fungus cannot be killed. These fungi cause either white or brown rot in the heartwood; both are structurally weakening. The brown rots are the result of a fungus not being able to break down lignin in the cell walls (Lignin is what makes cells strong). White rots attack both lignin and cellulose. Sometimes, the tree becomes hollow, yet remains stable, however decay usually leads to weakening of the trunk, eventual limb fractures or toppling. Top rots which affect upper parts of the tree are less hazardous (dropped branches) than the root or butt rots which can be quite damaging because the whole tree may fall!

Bracket fungi cause millions of dollars in damage through lost wood production in the lumber trade. The only mitigation is to harvest the tree before the rot spreads too far. Income is lost because foresters need to harvest more wood to make quotas. Removing the infected trees decreases nesting sites for birds and animals, also. The rotten wood is easier to excavate and fallen logs provide cover.

There is a good side to these fungi!

The Chinese and Japanese continue to use many types of bracket fungi as a way to prevent and treat a number of diseases, including hepatitis, hypertension, bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, rheumatism, cancer, reduce saracoma 180 (cancer in connective tissues), esophageal carcinoma (malignant tumor with epithelial cells), hyperglycemia and to treat rheumatic tuberculosis. They have also been used to relieve pain, reducing fever, indigestion and hemostasis, and reducing levels of phlegm, steroids, fatty acids, applanoxidic acid, ganoderic acid, ganoderenic acid, and furanoganoderic acid. Studies have been conducted which show the fungi has antitumor, antimicrobial, antibronchial asthma, immune-stimulating, immune-regulating, liver- protecting, anti-hypertensive, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-allergic and anti-oxidative properties. Antibacterial properties are also found in the tube layers of Artist conk (Ganoderma applanatum). It prevents tumor growth and increases white blood cell activity. Extracts from Ganoderma applanatum lower glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels significantly.

I brought up Artist Conk, want to know why it is called that? When the bottom is touched, it bruises the tender white underbelly a dark brown. Many folks have some beautiful art with Artist Conk as their medium.

Remember, mycelium, the body of the fungus, decomposes chemicals in the tree cells. White rots attack both lignin and cellulose, which are the molecules found in paper. The rotted wood is white because that is the color of the cellulose left behind. Scientists are experimenting using white rot fungi to convert wood chips to paper pulp. This process reduces energy use and pollutants. White rot fungi can also destroy toxic chemicals like PCB’s in soil. Go Go Fungi power!

Fungi are just the suckerfish of the woodlands. Someone has to do the dirty, clean-up work so the cycle of life can go on in the forest.

Here are some interesting sites I came across while researching this topic:

YES!! Fungi are great cures for many ailments.
I do investigate these ‘medical alternatives’, as a true cure may be found in them!! Burdock root (burr plants) & Turmeric (ginger) keep my skin issues in check. They are affordable, don’t destroy my system (like antibiotics) and no need to go to the doctor.

The U.S. GOV site on alternative meds

A list of every medical mushroom

A well written piece about shrooms with a bit of history

Dr. Mercola writes many articles about alternative health, good stuff)

© The Naturarian

Houseplant Scale on Schefflera Arboricola

The Schefflera Arboricola is a fairly easy Midwestern houseplant to care for. When I lived in Florida, there was one growing in my front yard, right in front of the chimney. My Midwestern version is a smaller scale!

This time of year my butt has just about been kicked by Old Man Winter. I’m soooo over winter. My houseplants have had it also. Here I am, a horticulturist and should have noticed this earlier. I did see the shiny leaves, but I thought it was just where I had over-sprayed some horticultural oil. Nope, not that lucky. From a distance, these guys are hardly noticeable. However, just get a bit closer and you’ll see them all… Huddling on the midrib.scale insect on houseplant leaf

houseplant

Next I noticed my sock stick to the floor… The floor was sticky. Remember there are signs and symptoms to all plant problems. The shiny leaves and sticky floor are signs of a honeydew producing pest. Signs are observations that are directly related to the problem. A symptom would be the leaves showing some spotting.

Here’s the little guys close up, along with their honeydew which is just a sweet name for poop. In the wild, opposed to the tame of my living room, ants would be attracted to the sweet honeydew and protect the producer. Ants have been known to herd aphids (another honey-doer!) and protect them in little colonies. I’ve seen it, pretty weird!

scale insect on leaf

We’re not going to have freeloaders on my plants! I promptly dragged ‘Sheffy’ into the shower for a rinse. I would have preferred to use horticultural oil, but I was out. I did have an organic insecticidal soap.

houseplant getting rinced off in bathtub

Spray the plant down with water first, as the longer the soap spray stays liquid, the better job it will do smothering the pests.

Just for the record, using dish soap is not acceptable for a cheap substitute for horticultural soap. Now-a-days, the dish soap is not soap anymore, detergent is the main ingredient and modern soap lacks the fatty acids that are helpful in killing the insect.

Another few good tips to aid the recovery of your plant from scale:

  • Don’t over-water.
  • Don’t fertilize – forcing fresh growth is stressful on the plant and the pests like the new stuff better!
  • Place in sunny location.
  • Try to remove the honeydew, as sooty mold will grow on it.
  • Don’t be afraid to prune when needed – I cut many branches down to just lessen the surface area.
  • About once a week, spray off the plant and reapply the soap or oil.

© The Naturarian