Tree Disease and Hurricane Season

— Written By and last updated by Jami Hooper
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Inspection of large landscape trees is an important part of storm readiness in Eastern North Carolina. And conveniently, the fall and winter months are a good time to look for the presence of fruiting structures of various wood-decay pathogens.
For example, we recently spotted the large, distinctive conk of Phaeolus schweinitzii growing at the base of a large loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) in the Clarks area of Craven County. According to the University of Massachusetts, This fungus causes a brown rot, meaning “the cellulose and hemicellulose are preferentially targeted while the lignin remains in a modified form”. Further, “Brown rot results in severe reductions in wood bending strength, making trees susceptible to stem breakage and uprooting under loading from strong winds”. While an infected pine may still be structurally sound, it’s important to have the tree inspected by an arborist if the conks have begun to appear and are showing up annually. This is especially the case if the pine is within striking distance of a house or other structure.
Thanks to the NC State Plant Disease and Insect Clinic and Duke University for confirming the ID.

Phaeolus schweinitzii fruiting bodies are found at the base of infected pines.

This fruiting body measured about 10″ across at the widest point.

The same structure, showing the underside. When submitting images to a mycologist for fungal ID,
it’s critical that your images include the underside as well as the topside of the conk or mushroom.

This close-up view of the underside shows the angular pores (as opposed to rounded pores) associated with Phaeolus schweinitzii.