North Shore arborist suspects infection in some Incline trees
INCLINE VILLAGE “-Incline Village resident Millie Clarke was asleep at 2 a.m. on a cold December night when she heard a large crash as windows on her home shattered and a beam in the roof cracked.
During a large windstorm that Dec. 13 a large Douglas fir tree growing a little bit more than six feet from her home came falling upon her Country Club Drive home.
“It was not a good night,” she said.
The cracked tree still sits outside of her patio, and the top triangle of her roof is dented in from the damage. Damage that will take time and about $5,000 to replace. After the tree fell Clarke called Rockwood Tree Service and Arbor Management Services to help handle the fallen tree, and to inspect the rest of her property.
“We don’t want any more trees to fall down,” she said.
When Rockwood owner and certified arborist Beth Moxley began to examine the tree and found a conk, a hard piece of wood-decaying fungi, on the tree, she began to suspect a common cause of death for Clarke’s fir and two other trees in the past year.
In October 2007 Moxley attended to a fallen Douglas fir on Tyner Way near Nadine Court. Then in September of last year another tree fell on Dorcey Drive. Both of those trees had the same conk-like growth, Moxley said.
Moxley began to suspect armillaria root rot as the suspect for the tree deaths. But when Elko-based Arborist Tony Dietz took a look at the conk Wednesday, he suspected another fungus called “fomes annosus.”
The fungus from all three trees has been sent to a lab in Utah to be analyzed, Moxley said.
However, any type of fungus can be dangerous for trees, Dietz said.
“If a tree is already infected, then it’s doomed,” Dietz said.
Fungal infections can spread two main ways, Dietz and Moxley said. The fungus can travel to tree to tree along the roots which can act like a infectious highway. Roots on Douglas fir trees can reach out anywhere from 20 to 30 feet Dietz said.
Or, the spoors can travel through the air during spring and summer when the fungi are blooming and enter the tree through open cuts.
If a tree is healthy and hydrated it will naturally fight off the infection by producing excess sap, Dietz said. But if it’s dehydrated and attached by bark beetles, as many in the Tahoe basin are, it is less able to fight off invaders.
This process is complicated by residents in the Tahoe basin pruning the lower branches of their trees for defensible space.
“Don’t get me wrong, defensible space is an excellent and necessary program,” Moxley said. “But when you cut those branches off in the summer when the fungi are fruiting, then the spoors can go right in there.”
This makes winter an excellent time to do tree work, as this is when the fungi are dormant, Moxley said. In addition, a thick mixture of borax can be smeared on the tree’s open cuts to prevent infection during the summer, Dietz said.
Incline Village has had a number of fungi infected trees, said Brian Hurt, a senior forester with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
For Clarke, the tree’s infection and its subsequent fall was a surprise.
“It’s not like the whole tree was dying,” she said. “It was green and healthy looking.”
Moxley said a tree inspection on a person’s property can cost about $120 and could spot an infected tree before it falls.
“We have an obligation to protect our roads and our homes,” she said.
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