It is not uncommon to find lichen and moss on fruit trees. They may both be in evidence or just one or the other, but is it a problem? Lichens are an indicator of low air pollution, so they are good in that way. Moss grows on the north side of trees in moist regions. Lichen also prefers moisture but they are a different organism altogether. Over time, they will contribute to reduced tree vigor. Continue reading to see what you can do about fruit tree moss or lichen on your plants.
About Moss and Lichen on Fruit Trees
Lichen and mosses on trees conjure up romantic images of oaks in Louisiana covered in lacy nets of the stuff. While they both give trees a bit of character, do they actually harm them? Fruit tree lichen is most common in rural areas where the air is clear. Moss on a fruit tree can occur anywhere, provided temperatures are mild and there is plentiful moisture. Both conditions can be found across much of North America.
There are many types of mosses. They are small plants that grow in clusters in damp, shady locations. For this reason, they often occur on the north side of a tree but they can also grow on any other side in shade. Although tiny, they are vascular plants with the ability to glean moisture and nutrients, primarily out of the air. Fruit tree moss may be green, yellow, or any color between. It may also have a dense or loose texture, and be soft or coarse. Moss on a fruit tree has no adverse effect on the plant. It is simply utilizing the tree’s shady branches as a nice living space.
Lichens are different from mosses, although they may tend to have similar appearances. Lichen is found on the branches and stems of fruit trees. They may look like crusty patches, hanging growths, upright forms, or even leafy mats. The colonies will enlarge over time, so older plants have larger patches of lichen. Fruit tree lichen also occurs on plants that are low in vigor and may be an indicator that an older tree is nearing the end of its life. Lichens are a combination of a fungi and blue-green algae, which live and work together to harness the needs of the organism. They do not take anything from the tree but are a good indicator of several factors.
Combating Lichen and Moss on Fruit Trees
Although neither adversely affects trees, if you don’t like the appearance of lichen or moss on your trees, you can control them to some extent. In orchards with regular copper fungicide applications, neither organism occurs very frequently.
Lichens and moss can be minimized by pruning the interior canopy to let in light and air. Removing close vegetation around the trees can also help, as does good cultural care for a healthier tree.
You can also manually remove the larger moss plants on stems and limbs. Lichen is a bit more resistant to removal, but some can be rubbed off without damaging the tree.
In most cases, neither lichen on fruit tree nor moss will cause any harm to a well-cared-for fruit tree and should just be enjoyed.