‘It’s a real danger’: City of Wichita sees surge in fungal infection in trees

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WICHITA, Kan. ( KSNW) – Only a stump remains where a locust tree once stood in Columbine Park in Wichita. The city cut it down because it was growing fungal mushrooms, also called conks. It’s an external sign that a tree is decaying inside.

“Once we see it, we know the time has come for that tree to be taken down,” said Gary Farris, City Arborist for Wichita. “It destroys the structural integrity of the tree.”

As the fungal infection advances, it produces the conk on the outside making the tree weak and easy to fall over.

“We don’t want it to fall on someone. We don’t want it to fall on a house or car and cause property damage or injury,” said Farris.

Conk is a general term for a fungus mushroom that is connected to a tree or shrub. The type of fungus the city said it is seeing the most is Ganoderma, and it can impact almost any type of tree.

Farris said conk on trees is an ongoing issue around the city. This year, they’re are seeing a significant increase. He estimates the city has cut down more than 200 of them so far this year. It’s many reasons for the spike, but Farris believes it’s due to environmental factors such as drastic temperature swings and periods of droughts and flooding over the years.

“It just really stresses the trees out,” said Farris.

It’s hard to predict when one of these decaying trees might fall, but Farris said the threat is there. That’s why the city works to remove them as soon as it’s discovered.

“This is Kansas. We get big storms, and a tree that is infected with this wood decaying fungus, it’s susceptible to wind throw, and we get high winds around here,” said Farris. “It’s a real danger.”

If you notice any conk growing on your trees and it’s in the city right of way, report it to the city’s forestry department at 316-268-4361.

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