What makes the Pacific Northwest great? Being a short drive away to beautiful forests, mountains, and the coast. Great coffee. Arts and culture.
And of course, all of our beautiful trees.
But the rainy weather that helps all of these trees flourish can also harm them as it provides the perfect climate for fungi that live inside of tree trunks and slowly decays the wood.
You love the trees in your yard and don’t want to lose any of them to tree rot, so what can you do to prevent it from happening? Let’s start with the basics.
What is Tree Rot?
Tree rot is caused by fungi entering a tree through exposed areas in the bark. These areas are weaker than places where the trunk is protected by undamaged bark. Once fungi enter into the tree, they reproduce within the center of the trunk, damaging the heartwood, which is the central part of the trunk.
Heartwood provides much of the stability and structure of a tree, especially mature trees. So when fungi break that wood down, the tree will become unstable and weak from the inside out. Over time, affected trees and branches may even fall.
This can cause damage to anything in the falling tree or branch’s path; your other trees, your property, and your family.
This is definitely something you want to be aware of so you can try and prevent it from happening with your own trees.
How to Detect Tree Rot
Since fungal rot happens from the inside out, it can be hard to tell just by looking at your tree that there’s something wrong. A tree that is suffering from decay can look perfectly healthy at first glance.
Still, there are some signs you can look for.
The most obvious visible sign is “conks” or mushroom growths appearing on the outside of the tree’s trunk or branches. When these start appearing, it is a sign that there is a lot of decay inside the tree as conks feed off of rotting wood. In this case, you should contact an arborist as your tree could pose a safety hazard.
You can also look for openings and holes in your tree. Since fungi get in through exposed wood that is not covered by bark, identifying problem spots can help you monitor your trees and keep them safe.
Insects like termites and carpenter ants are also drawn to rotting wood and may be present around your trees.
Also, know that all kinds of trees can be affected. While some trees are more resistant, like some species of conifer, no species is completely immune to rot.
How do I Prevent Tree Rot?
Prevention is the most important step to making sure your trees don’t get fungi in the first place. If none of your trees are currently affected, great! It is essential to make sure they stay this way.
Once one tree on your property is affected, the rest are more easily affected because fungi can spread through the soil to neighboring trees. It’s difficult to remove fungal spores completely from the soil once they’re present, so prevention is very important.
One easy thing you can do is make sure your trees are getting the proper amount of water. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we get a lot of moisture. You need to make sure that your trees are not getting too much water as this can encourage fungal growth. Of course, don’t overcompensate and not water your trees enough.
As well, make sure your trees are being properly pruned. Cut off excess branches neatly to minimize the amount of damage done to the tree. When the wood of a tree is exposed, it allows for an entrance to fungi, so make sure that you are keeping wounds in the trunk as small as possible. Getting a professional to help prune your trees guarantees that you won’t accidentally cause damage.
If you have young trees in your yard, it’s a good idea to work with them while they’re still growing rapidly. By shaping them early in their lives, it will be less likely that you’ll have to do significant branch removal in the future.
This is important because young trees are less susceptible to structural damage from rot. Because young trees are still growing, any damage from rot will be contained and the structure of the tree will not be compromised as much. But older trees that get heart rot are more likely to suffer structural damage and collapse.
The older a tree is, the more vulnerable it is to storm damage. While serious storms do not frequently happen in the Pacific Northwest, sometimes we do get heavy winds that cause breakage. If a storm has damaged your trees, remove any broken branches and trim as necessary to help your tree recover.
On top of this, check your trees every year or so to look for signs of rot, and to make sure your trees’ new growth is properly supported by existing structures.
What if I Suspect My Tree is Rotting?
While prevention is the best thing you can do, sometimes your trees still develop a rot problem.
Before doing anything, be sure to call a professional arborist to assess your situation. They will be well-trained to assess the extent of the damage to your tree. Since tree rot can be largely invisible, it can be hard to tell how damaged your tree is, especially if you’re not well-versed in trees or have never had experience with this problem before.
If the damage has not spread very far, it might be possible to save your tree. But if the rot has spread too much, it may be better to remove the tree to prevent damage to your other trees and property.
Contact a reputable tree service company to have an experienced professional help you make the correct evaluation and safely remove any hazardous trees.
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