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Plant Diseases/blackwalnut tree

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Question
fern type growth on trunk and limbs of tree. Is this harmful to tree? If it is,can you help?

Answer
These sound like lichens. The effect of lichens on a tree are only slightly detrimental. The plants are epiphytes. That is they derive their nutrients from the air and not from the plant on which they are growing. Although they are not parasitized, literature reports suggest that lichens do have a slight negative effect. The main concern is that lichens give a tree an unkept appearance. Presence of lichens also is a good indicator of a thin tree canopy. This often leads homeowners to conclude that lichens are the cause and not the effect of thin foliage. The best control for lichens is maintain the tree in good condition. This will insure a dense canopy which will shade the limbs and reduce photosynthesis. Without photosynthesis, lichens are not able to manufacture food needed for growth and development.  
As long as the foliage looks green full and healthy the tree is OK. I would recommend that you fertilize the tree with 10-10-10 fertilizer at the rate of 1 lb per inch of trunk diameter scattered around the tree and watered in good. Apply the fertilizer just before a rain event and you will not need to water. Do this now and again in the Fall after the leaves have turned. This will increase the overall health of the tree.  

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Jim Hyland

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30 years experiance in the ID and management of forest diseases and ID of landscape tree diseases.

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