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7/15/2017
Fungus spreads: Alaska trees

JUNEAU (AP) — A fungus that damages trees is making its way through the state of Alaska.

The fungus, spruce bud blight, has left damage in Southcentral and Interior Alaska, and now has been discovered for the first time in the southeast part of the state.

The infection was discovered in Southeast Alaska in late June, the first reported sighting in the region, CoastAlaska News reported Thursday.

The blight infects Sitka spruce, one of the most common trees in Southeast Alaska’s rainforest.

“Right now, I’m considering it potentially a significant threat,” Forest Pathologist Robin Mulvey said. “I’ll be incredibly happy to be wrong about that.”

It is unknown how the spruce bud blight ended up in Southeast Alaska. Mulvey said it’s unlikely it came in on the clothes or boots of one of the shrine’s many visitors.

It is often found on Colorado blue spruce, a common ornamental plant used in landscaping.

Mulvey said there’s a chance the fungus could be stopped if it did not arrive naturally.

“I just have to do what I can to try and prevent any further spread, while it still seems feasible,” she said.

Her team is continuing its search for spruce bud blight in Southeast. It’s also asking for public help.

She suggests checking landscape plants, because it seems most common in developed areas.

“Look really closely at any dead buds on your spruce trees and if you see these small, spherical black fruiting structures, please give us a call because we’d love to come out and take a look,” she said.

The fungus is not easy to spot. It’s black and looks like a dead, crusty coating on the buds.

It is a group of small, spherical fruiting structures.

If it doesn’t kill a bud, it hampers its growth, leaving another sign, a small, twisted branch with few needles.

“This is going to spread through spores moving on the air and it’s also going to spread through spores moving through rain splash,” she said.