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Trees/Lichens on my flowering crab apple tree.

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Question
What should I use on Lichens on my trunk & limbs of my tree? I heard that most garden centers tell you to use copper sulfate. My tree looks beautiful spring & summer. lots of leaves & flowers, but the trunk & limbs look sick. Thank you for your time

Answer
Lichens are an example of a symbiotic relationship between algae and certain fungi. They are capable of producing their own food. The algae associated with the fungus is a green or blue-green alga. There are three forms of lichens based on growth patterns. Crustose are species that are closely pressed against the surface of the limb or trunk of dead or live trees. Foliose forms are leaf like or prostrate but are also tightly attached to the tree. Fruticose forms are bush like, erect or hanging. Although lichens are found in most areas of Texas, they are most noticeable in areas that have extended periods of high humidity.

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.  

The baking soda recommendation I have heard of is 40 pounds of baking soda per 100 gallons which comes to 0.4 lb of baking soda to 1 gal of water. But I would not do anything about the lichens but I would 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. this will increase the overall health of the tree. If the tree has healthy foliage the lichens are NOT damaging the trees health.

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Jim Hyland

Expertise

I am an expert in Forestry, Forest Entomology, Forest Pest Control, and Forest Health. Extensive knowledge in Identification of insects and diseases of trees. Expert on Bark beetles and other insects that attack forests. Also a Registrated Forester with extensive knowledge in the management and care of forests.

Experience

34 years as State Pest Management Chief in a Southern state. Extensive knowledge in Forestry.

BS with major in Forest Management and Entomology
Registered Forester
Certified Pesticide Appicator

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