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Mushroom Mania: They Are Nasty Looking And Popping Up On Many Area Trees

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A bizarre fungus is popping up on trees across our area. It is literally eating the trees.

CBS 2's Elise Finch found out why it's happening and what's being done to fix the problem.

Some of the trees in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn are getting a lot of attention these days, all because of what some people are calling grotesque growths.

"It's not pretty. People are passing by going 'ugh!'" one person said.

"It looks actually fake. It looks like pizza dough," another passerby said.

Mushrooms are the result of fungus. The particular species on the trees Finch saw in Brooklyn is called ganoderma lucidum, also known as "reishi," and its very presence is a sign of decay for a tree.

"It's part of nature. There have always been lots of reishi mushrooms around. You're going to see more of them because of all the rain we've been having. It parasiticizes the tree and it might kill the tree eventually," naturalist and park guide Steve Brill told Finch.

The key word being "might."  Matthew Wells is the director of tree preservation for the city's Parks & Recreation Department. He said because of their life cycle, this is the time of year when the mushroom brackets from the ganoderma plants grow quickly. They feed on dead material, but can also colonize live parts of the tree. However, just because these mushrooms are growing it doesn't mean a tree will die.

"The tree itself is obviously a biological organism and like we fight pest and disease it can fight diseases as well. So it knows it has a slight weakness and the cambien, which is the growth material in the tree, is responding to losing a little bit of wood, but building more wood at a greater rate in that area," Wells said.

Wells said his department is constantly testing trees for decay and most are perfectly safe, including the Bay Ridge attention grabbers.

In spite of the storied healing properties of some types of mushrooms, most experts say do not eat them directly off of a tree and don't allow your pet to either. They could make you both sick.

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