Is this honey fungus
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Crops of golden yellow fungi on our pussy-willow, on sites where branches have been removed in the past ; the death last year of a mahonia growing in the same bed just 5' away, and now a laurel turning black and obviously dying, which is just a foot away. How deep do I need to dig to find any tell-tale 'bootlaces'? Nothing to be seen in the top 3" of the soil.
The most characteristic symptom of honey fungus is white fungal growth between the bark and wood usually at ground level.You should be able to see it very close to the surface. Honey fungus spreads underground, attacking and killing the roots of perennial plants and then decaying the dead wood. It is the most destructive fungal disease in UK gardens. They tend to produce toad stools like this.
Does yours look like this?
The fungus on the Laurel sounds like phytopthera.
We're plagued with it. Bootlaces are hard to see; best to look for the white layer under bark. It smells strongly of mushrooms. The toadstools are yellow and they always have that little skirt around the stem (like in Edd's first photo).
If you've got it, bad luck....but don't panic or despair. Come back to this forum and fellow sufferers will try to help with advice and experience!
I agree, if the fungus is actually growing on the pussy willow branches though, it isn't Honey Fungus but something else. Honey Fungus mushrooms appear from the ground and can be right next to the affected tree/shrub or quite some distance away. Given that you have other things dying, it's possible that there are several fungi involved and HF may be just one of them (but the most serious.) If you can post photo's of the various growths it would really help but positive identification is extremely tricky in the best of cases!
My HF fruiting bodies get about 2, maybe a bit more, foot up the dead tree trunk and have large clusters round the base of the trunk. Most appear on the garden and grass.
Another pointer for HF, when it turns black and melts down the smell is foul.
But as Bob says, there'll be lots of different fungi on dead and dying trees.
I think they do get up a bit further when the wood is dead and rotting, nut. I've tried to remove all of the dead stumps etc from my garden as the HF needs a lump of rotting wood in the ground as a 'home base' it seems. Quite a job as my long raised border in the back garden was fronted with a 6" thick, 2' high wall of wood from the remains of a 70ft Ash which came down a few years ago and with which I got creative with a chainsaw. When I was pulling the sections out, lots of them were 'veined' with HF bootlaces.
Now I've replaced all of that with treated decking boards, I'm hoping the HF will become less of a problem. Really hoping!
When I first cut the Ash up, I left about the bottom 10' of the trunk for a year and was rewarded by a massive growth of Silky Volvar (caps of 10"!) which were delicious, but not much of reward if my infestation of HF was the payment!
The removal of the stumps here is beyond us Bob. I'm not too bothered. The only deaths I can maybe put down to HF, apart from the 2 enormous willows that started it, are a couple of viticellas over an arch.
As soon as something dies here I immediately decide the garden looks better without it. Those viticelllas had become shaded out and didn't flower much.
Used to get huge loads of leaf mould from local woods. ,lovely stuff but I began to fear the introduction of honey fungus into my garden so stopped doing this. (dead trees in the woods, etc)
Bob, what do you think? Too cautious or am I right to be wary?
That's really the best way, nut - live with nature rather than trying to outwit it!
HF is entirely natural and probably breaks down more woody matter so that it can be recycled into the soil than anything else. If it didn't exist we might not have any fertile soil! It's annoying when it gets to a favourite plant/shrub, but it is an opportunity (and excuse to do some plant shopping!) to try something else less prone.
I can see a few plant fairs coming up this year Bob
Verd, from what I've read HF spreads to new areas almost entirely by rhizomes rather than by spores (which would need to settle on dead wood) so as long as you only collected leaves and not twigs I suspect the risk would be very, very low. But not zero. Maybe erring on the side of caution is what a certain wise Cornishman is already doing?
It's awful to see all of those horrible effects of the storms down your way - my thoughts are with you and everyone else down there (I have friends in zumerrzet, too.)
Thank you to all who have responded to my queries. There are a few fungi at the bottom of our willow which resemble those in the first photo, and where some of the bark has peeled away there is a white patch underneath with grey striped markings, so that does appear to be honey fungus. The crops of fungi growing in crevices further up the tree definitely look like the ones in the lower picture ; really quite handsome in their way. I wish I had the know-how to transfer the photos I've taken on to here; I know how to send them as attachments with an Email, but anything more ambitious beats me I'm afraid. Sorry. What's the next step to take? Should we be thinking of having the willow removed, and is there anything we can use to treat the soil and inhibit the spread of this awful disease? This tree started off as a twig on my nature table at school, when I was teaching some 51 years ago. At 20 feet tall it has been the main feature of the garden for a long time now, but if it needs to go then so be it.
Oh bad luck, Ruth. Honey fungus is a baddie. BUT - don't despair. We moved to our house 13 years ago, and soon found that our (big) garden is riddled with honey fungus. i panicked! My first reaction was to do everything I could. There was a product on the market then called Armillatox which is partially effective as a protection for trees - they are not allowed to market it for that use now, but the product still exists as a surface cleaner. I think it had some limited effect.
But after a year or two I realised that the fungus was only killing old and weak plants (and very slowly). And Armillatox stinks. So now I'm more laid back about it. i know that three more trees are infected and will, therefore, die....but probably not for two or three years. So I'm spending that time planning what I'll put in their places. I've learned that some plants are really susceptible - for example viburnum - so have adapted my planting plans. The RHS website gives a list of plants that are more resistant than others.
So, strictly if you want to try to halt the spread of the disease you show remove any infected plants, dig out all of their stumps and root systems. You could even line any new planting holes with butyl rubber to combat infection, and fill with clean compost. But that seems like quite a lot of work to me (I'm a lazy gardener I guess!). So personally I'd be inclined to continue to enjoy your much-loved willow tree while it finishes its life, and remove it only when it gets ugly. In the meantime you could take some cuttings from it to keep it's history alive.
I'm sure others would give different (and probably better!) advice, but I'm just sharing my own experience....
Let us know how you get on.
PS I was told that honey fungus is bigger problem in gardens than it is in natural woodland because woodlands have a wider variety of other fungii to compete with it. So when you see other types of toadstool / mushroom appearing, welcome them! They are probably fighting your honey fungus for you!
Thank you Rosie31. You've lifted my spirits. We have a new Bird Box to put up and don't know where it would go, other than in the willow. In 2012 and 2013 Great Tits nested there and we had great fun watching all the goings in and out. Last spring, however, there was a lot of prospecting, but no birds actually nested there. I'm now wondering if the birds might have detected something unpleasant going on within the tree and opted to nest elsewhere. Does anyone out there think this is likely? Anyway, I'll put up the new box and see what happens this spring.