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Heart Rot - Identification, Treatment and Prevention

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If you have mature trees on your property, you should have them pruned and looked over annually by an experienced local tree services company.  An experienced arborist will be able to spot the early signs of diseases, such as heart rot, and take steps to prevent extensive damage to the tree from occurring.  In between visits, you can keep an eye on your trees too.  But, how do you spot heart rot and how can it be prevented? 

Spotting heart rot

Heart rot affects the inner core or 'heart' of the tree and can affect any species of tree, both deciduous and evergreen.  It's caused by many different fungal agents that gain access to the tree via wounds in the bark.  The heart of the tree is an important part of its support structure and damage to the heartwood can eventually cause the tree to become weakened and more susceptible to damage by high winds.

The first external sign that you'll see of heart rot is a mushroom-like body (called a 'conk') growing out of the tree trunk, usually around the site of damage to the bark.  By the time the conk has appeared, the tree will have sustained considerable damage and there could be several metres of decay behind the mushroom. 

Preventing heart rot

The fungi that cause heart rot don't generally invade the living wood of a tree that is healthy.  Therefore, the healthier you can keep your trees, the less likely it is that heart rot will be a problem.

There is not really an effective cure for heart rot, so prevention is the only sure way to keep the disease away.  Annual pruning by a good tree services contractor will help to remove damaged and broken branches that could allow access to heart rot causing fungus.  It's a good idea to carry out pruning to shape trees while they are young so that any major lopping later is not required.  This helps to minimise large wounds caused by extensive pruning. 

Trees that have been affected by heart rot may have to be felled and removed if there is a danger that they may become unstable.  Diseased wood should be burned to avoid spreading the fungal spores to other specimens.

Heart rot is a disease that affects any type of tree and can cause catastrophic damage if it's allowed to spread unchecked.  Have your trees checked each year by a qualified tree services contractor to prevent the spread of this devastating disease.