ScienceGiving Thanks for a Beloved Sugar Maple

Giving Thanks for a Beloved Sugar Maple


The outdated maple is dying.

It light slowly at first, however final summer time it started to go quick, its lichen-covered limbs snapping and falling to the bottom, the grey bark lined with darkish inexperienced moss. It has far fewer leaves. A crack runs up the center. Extra crops develop within the tree’s crevices: purple blackberry canes, spiky grasses and red-tinged euonymus. For the primary time, I see three woodpecker holes, so superbly aligned they appear like Orion’s belt.

I have no idea why the tree is dying, so I do a little analysis. Maples are vulnerable to many illnesses, akin to anthracnose, verticillium wilt, and powdery mildew, however I’m nonetheless confused, so I name Brian Crooks, a forester with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. The giveaway, he says, are the small honey-colored mushrooms on the tree’s base, which point out the maple has a fungus: Armillaria root rot.

The Armillaria fungus impacts many hardwoods and conifers, particularly maples, oaks, and elms. Black, stringy rhizomorphs develop by the soil into the roots and trunk of the tree and assault the wooden. If I take away the bark, I’d see vibrant, white mycelial followers. However none of that’s seen but. I be taught that the Armillaria fungus is the world’s largest recognized organism, larger than the 200-ton blue whale. A patch of Armillaria was found in Oregon in 1998 protecting 2384 acres.

I don’t understand how giant ours is, however I do fear about it encroaching on a close-by tree, a big purple oak that could be a favourite of my husband’s.

I ponder if the maple doesn’t like our new western Pennsylvania climate: the acute warmth, the drought, then the microbursts of rain and wind and the flash floods. When our floods come now, the water runs down the hill so quick that the maple sits in the midst of a pond, a stream working by it. I do know from maple sugaring with my buddy and his 89-year-old uncle that altering weather conditions are making sugaring harder. For the sap to run in February or March, the times have to be heat and the nights chilly. The timing is much less predictable now. However I’m not a scientist, so I ask Crooks.


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