Sunday, March 2, 2014

The parasite that thrives on living and dead trees

Inonotus tamaricis lives on tamarisk trees. In Maltese it is known lixka tal-bruk. Lixka is the Maltese name for shelf or bracket fungi. Lixka was also used for dried plants that were used to start a fire or light a pipe.

This species of fungus does not seem to have an English name so I will refer to it as the tamarisk bracket fungus which is a translation of its Maltese name. It grows on both dead and living trees and is considered as a pathogen because it can harm the trees it grows on. This is a species of southern Europe, North Africa and parts of the Middle East its range extending to Southern Asia and China.

Several species of bracket fungi or as they are sometimes known shelf fungi can be found in the Maltese islands. They are characterised by growing in the shape of a shelf or bracket attached to the bark of living or dead trees.

Bracket fungi are usually hard and tough. The actual fungus lives inside the tree. It is the fruiting body which we see growing on the bark. The fruiting bodies vary considerably in size ranging from tiny specimens to large perennial species that keep growing year after year.
Many bracket fungi are brownish, while some can be bright yellow, orange or red. They do not follow the well-known mushroom structure as they do not need a stalk to lift the fruiting body above the ground to release their spores.

Some species are saprophytes, that is, they live on dead organic matter. Others are parasites feeding on living wood eventually killing the tree in which they grow. These species sometimes cause considerable damage to the timber industry.

The tamarisk bracket fungus is easily seen but very few people notice them growing on the trunks of tamarisk trees that are found growing along many of Malta’s coastal promenades. 

This article was published in The Times of Malta on 8 January 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment