What Is A Tree Lichen?
Tree lichen are fungi that grow on trees. They are found mostly in North America, but they have been reported from Europe and Asia. There are several different kinds of tree lichens, but all of them belong to the genus Thiobacillus (tree fungus). Tree fungus belongs to the same family as mold and bacteria. Some of these fungi produce toxins which cause disease outbreaks in humans or animals when ingested or inhaled. Other tree fungus are edible and used in various ways.
The most common type of tree fungus found on trees is called Aspergillus. These fungi produce a toxic substance called aspergillosis. Aspergillus causes severe allergic reactions such as asthma attacks, wheezing, coughing up blood, shortness of breath and even death if left untreated. It is not known what happens with the other types of tree fungus.
How Can I Identify Tree Lichen?
There are many ways to identify tree lichen. One way is to look at the spores. Spores are microscopic structures that contain genetic material of the organism. When they are released into air, they will become airborne and can then infect another living thing. You may see some of these spore like objects on your fingers after touching a tree stump or branch where there is a large number of them.
Another way to identify tree fungus is to smell them. Most tree fungus have a very strong, pungent smell. Aspergillus, the most common kind of tree fungus, usually has a distinctively sweet smell. Other types of fungus may smell like rotting flesh or even freshly turned soil.
It is best to use caution when smelling tree fungus as some can be very toxic and cause allergic reactions and others can be more deadly.
Does Lichen Harm Trees?
Yes, tree lichen can cause harm to trees. Lichen invade a tree through the stems or the leaves and begin to slowly eat away at it. As they grow larger, they will begin to cover the whole plant or branch, depriving the plant of sunlight and nutrients. Lichen can also release certain toxins into the air that are absorbed by the tree’s leaves and flowers causing them to slowly wither and die.
Removing Tree Lichen
Once you have identified your tree fungus, you can then decide on the treatment. If you have identified your fungus as a harmful type such as Aspergillus, you might want to consider removing it from the tree. This is a relatively simple process and can be accomplished with a few tools.
First, wash your hands thoroughly to remove any trace of fungal spores. Next get a bucket of water and some dish soap. Soak a rag or sponge in the water and then squeeze out most of the water. Begin at the bottom of the infected tree branch and scrub off all of the fungus.
Your goal is to get rid of all of it, but also to remove any trace of it as well. When you have finished one branch, move on to the next.
This process can be repeated as many times as necessary until all traces of tree fungus are gone. Once you have removed all the fungus, you can then treat the tree to keep it from becoming infected again in the future. There are a few things you can do. One is to simply cut off all of the branches that have been infected and dispose of them properly.
Another option is to apply antifungal creams or ointments to the tree. These will help prevent the spread of fungus to the rest of the tree. It is best to consult a doctor before applying any topical medicines to the tree.
Sources & references used in this article:
Lichen acclimatization on retention trees: a conservation physiology lesson by K Jairus, A Lõhmus, P Lõhmus – Journal of applied ecology, 2009 – Wiley Online Library
How agriculture affects lichen vegetation in central Switzerland by E Ruoss – The Lichenologist, 1999 – Elsevier
Retention of canopy lichens after partial-cut harvesting in wet-belt interior cedar–hemlock forests, British Columbia, Canada by DS Coxson, SK Stevenson – Forest Ecology and Management, 2005 – Elsevier
The influence of epiphytic lichens on the nutrient cycling of an oak woodland by JMH Knops, TH Nash III… – Ecological …, 1996 – Wiley Online Library
Epiphytic and epixylic lichen species diversity in Estonian natural forests by I Jüriado, J Paal, J Liira – Biodiversity & Conservation, 2003 – Springer