The forecast said it was supposed to be a balmy -6 degrees but when everyone met up at our carpooling location, with the wind blowing it felt more like -22 degrees! Fortunately, that didn't discourage any of our awesome volunteers and we made our way to Pipestone Creek, one of our conservation areas near Millet, Alberta.
When we arrived, we split into two groups and decided to scour two trails where local volunteers had spotted the fungus earlier in the year. We started walking down the path to a beautiful viewpoint of an oxbow lake in the ravine below and where the paths split. As we started walking through the snow and into the cover of the trees the frigid air was forgotten. We were on a mission now: to scan the forest for Black Knot fungus a growth that looks like someone wrapped black playdough around a branch.
Black Knot fungus is a fungal infection (Apiosporina morbosa) that most commonly targets the Prunus genus such as pin cherry and choke cherry trees. It will distort and stunt the growth of the tree and eventually kill it if not controlled. The best way to control this fungus is pruning the infected areas. It is important that this is done when the weather is cold and dry to prevent the spores from spreading the infection. Pruning when the leaves are gone is best because the fungus is easier to spot.
After about 3 hours, we had filled 2 bags of the fungus and were feeling like we'd really made headway. As long as the infected branches are sealed in a bag to prevent spreading, they can be thrown in the garbage. This wasn't the first time we've removed Black Knot fungus from Pipestone and though we seem to spot new fungus every year, we have definitely noticed an overall decline at this conservation area. This wouldn't have happened without the hard work and dedication of our amazing volunteers. Thank you to everyone who came out to help and hopefully we'll see you at the next event!
Here are some photos from the day - enjoy!