Do Your Trees have Alcoholic Flux???
August 10, 2017
Drunken trees!? What on earth is Alcoholic flux? Nature is fascinating because there's always something new to learn here at Preservation Tree. Just recently, an unusual, but interesting tree disease that we see only on occasion popped up. Also called foamy flux, alcoholic flux, is a bit different from other similar conditions called slime flux, bacterial flux, or wetwood.
What is Alcoholic Flux?
Bacteria that can normally be found growing in soil and water, make their way into the tree entering through wounds. They take hold in the bark and cambium layers of the tree. Unlike slime or bacterial flux, foamy flux typically does not move into the heartwood of the tree. So it usually does not do as much structural damage as these other bacterial diseases. But like these other diseases, the bacteria creates anaerobic conditions inside the tree. As a result, gas is produced,creating strong pressure under the bark.
When the pressure builds to a certain point, the foam begins to ooze out of the base of the tree, or out of cracks in the bark and other wounds. This foamy ooze, or liquid, is essentially fermented. Get close enough and you’ll smell something like beer! You might even find some local insects, such as ants or wasps, having a drink.
Be aware, this nasty foam or liquid can kill surrounding grass and other plants.
Will it Hurt my Tree?
While tree injuries and bacterial infections are never a good thing, alcoholic, or foamy, flux shouldn’t be something that causes you too much concern. It’s often thought of as benign, as it doesn’t damage the heartwood of your tree, and can often dry up when fall weather becomes cool and dry. And in any case, chemical treatments are typically ineffective.
Take note that alcoholic flux, and related flux diseases, can be more damaging in fruit and nut trees.
The trees in our area that are most often affected are elm, oak, ash, fruitless mulberry, and cottonwoods.
The Good News
Most of the time healthy trees will recover. Keep in mind that outbreaks often appear after a long hot dry spell, when the tree is already under stress. Proper landscape maintenance, as always, is the best prevention for all kinds of diseases and pest infestations as well as providing the best opportunity for recovery once they are affected.
To avoid tree injury, never use power equipment against or near your tree trunks. Weedeaters cause big damage to trees and cause entry points for disease and pests to move in.
Deep watering, penetrating the soil to 18-24 inches, is essential to encourage a strong root system and a healthy plant. Healthy trees are better able to overcome diseases and pests.
While alcoholic flux is not a disease you should see too frequently, it’s presence can indicate other damage or stress in your trees. Other types of fungal or bacterial diseases can also occur on infected trees, and can sometimes look similar to flux. You want to make sure these more damaging diseases don’t go unchecked. Our regular arborist inspections make sure that nothing which could damage your trees goes unnoticed.
Give us a call if it's been awhile since your landscape has had a professional evaluation from a certified arborist.