November 16, 2010

First there were "galls" and now "conks"

My goodness, I am learning a whole new vocabulary! Had you ever heard of "galls" before reading my earlier posts? Have you ever heard of a "conk"? Me either. So what exactly is a conk? Well, let me share:

On my way through the parking lot on Monday evening, after stopping to get the mail, I drove past a large oak tree that grew next to the recycle dumpster in the parking lot of the apartment complex. Just about 3 feet off the ground, in a hollow out dead portion of the trunk of the tree, there was something jetting out that looked like layers of 12" golden clam shells. After parking the car and going upstairs, I asked Michael if he wanted to take a short walk. I explained that I had seen something very odd and wanted to get a closer look. So we grabbed the camera and headed back to that tree.

It was amazing. They seemed to be some sort of mushrooms. I had seen smaller versions on trees before, but nothing like this. It felt cool to the touch almost like wrinkly old skin or rubber. The largest one was at least 12 inches wide.

I took several pictures. I was not satisfied that these were mushrooms and wanted to find out more about them. So I did a little research only to discover that what we had growing inside the hollow section of the trunk of that old oak tree was actually:

"Fruiting bodies of the sulfur fungus, Laetiporus sulphureus."

The fungus causes a brown heart rot on living trees but will also decay dead trees. Can enter trees through bark wounds and dead branch stubs. Fungus is one of the most serious causes of decay in oaks and one of the few fungi that cause decay in yew. The soft, fleshy, moist conks range from 2-12 inches wide and are bright orange-yellow above and red-yellow below. Conks are produced annually and appear singly or in clusters, usually in fall; they become hard, brittle, and white with age. Conks do not appear until many years after the onset of decay and indicate extensive internal damage.

Unfortunately, what this means is that giant oak tree is in dire straits and will probably be the next one to fall in the garden.

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