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Black Birch Tree Diseases in Pennsylvania

By Jonathan Budzinski ; Updated September 21, 2017
All varieties of birch trees found in Pennsylvania are susceptible to attack from fungal pests and diseases.

Pennsylvanian black birch trees are susceptible to a number of fungal diseases and infections. Although relatively strong, resistant enough to thrive through harsh state winters, infected trees can be dangerously weakened or killed when not treated. Although many of these infections are treatable, gardeners often have problems keeping cured trees from being reinfected.

Black Birch

Black birch is a tree that can normally grow to about 60 feet in height and is constantly found in fertile lowlands or rocky ridges throughout Pennsylvania. The strong wood is harvested for furniture and fuel. A variety of animals and birds feed on the buds, seeds and fruits of the tree, while deer and rabbits will browse through the twigs.


Three examples of dangerous infections birch trees can experience in Pennsylvania are sterile conk trunk rot, polypore and white trunk rot. These fungal diseases are highly infectious and most often lead to death for the organism when left untreated.


Sterile conk trunk rot is a fungus that breaks from beneath the cracked surface bark and will cause serious decay within the interior of the tree, often leading to death. The polypore fungi will also attack the bark of the tree, with fruiting mushroom bodies appearing on its surface. Once this takes place the damage within the tree is already long-term and will eventually cause the tree to break apart. Lastly, white trunk rot damages the wood density of the bark. It is less lethal than other fungal disease but makes the tree unsuitable for lumber harvest.


These fungal diseases are spread by the reproduction of various fungi. As the fungi begin to spore, their reproductive material is carried by insects and wind and transferred to host organisms. Some fungi strands need to spread from host to host throughout the year to successfully complete their life cycle. Researching these varieties of fungi and their reproduction paths is the first major step in preventing the growth and spread of fungal diseases.


Most fungi disease are difficult to prevent and even harder to cure once they've been established within the organism. Garden stores usually sell fungicidal sprays, which will help destroy fungus already present within the tree. All manufacturer instructions should be followed precisely when applying fungicide to plants. Consequences of misuse include further damaging the tree and worsening the infection.


About the Author


Jonathan Budzinski started his writing career in 2007. His work appears on websites such as WordGigs. Budzinski specializes in nonprofit topics as he spent two years working with Basic Rights Oregon and WomanSpace. He has received recognition as a Shining Star Talent Scholar in English while studying English at the University of Oregon.