I'm looking at ordering about 500 spawn plugs, and was wondering if it's safe to put mushroom plugs directly into live trees, and let them sap over while temporarily using tape caps to protect the plugs.

What type of tape should I use?

How do I determine the number of plugs I can put in the tree?


Please forget that idea immediately. (Unless you want to slowly kill your trees, have them become unstable, brittle and generally dangerous, of course.)

There are two types of mushrooms that grow on trees.

  • The non-parasitic ones that consume already dead plant material. If they grow on a tree, it was already damaged at this spot and the mushrooms are just digesting the rotting material. Note that we discussed that mechanism already in the comments of your „oyster mushrooms in plastic boxes“ question.
    Those mushrooms won’t colonize a healthy tree and if you put plugs into them, they should either die or you as the interfering human effectively started to kill the tree because you damaged the tree which may cause local decay.
  • The parasitic kinds that digest the lignin (causing white rot) or cellulose (causing brown rot). These can actually kill a previously healthy tree if the spores can find a spot to grow, e.g. a small damage.
    Wood decay often remains invisible to the casual observer. The tree may look fine, perhaps with a few dead branches, but be already unstable and dangerous. Every responsible gardener will make sure that the trees in their care are healthy and remove branches or trees that are seriously affected by parasitic fungi to prevent them from falling on buildings, other structures or - even worse - humans. (An infested tree in the wilderness is different. Let nature take its course there.)

So to sum this all up:
Either the plugs won’t grow in your trees (but the damage to the tree will be done, possibly leading to other infections) or you will be killing the trees. Note that the mushrooms have to “eat“ something, which will be the wood of the trees in question. Mushrooms cannot do photosynthesis, they require organic material to digest.

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  • why is it acceptable to put maple syrup taps into trees, but not mushroom plugs? don't they do the same thing? – black thumb Jun 19 '18 at 8:14
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    hardly - tapping for syrup can, in fact, trigger an infection in the tree, but its only one plug or tap. Inserting plugs of fungi all over the tree is a vastly different thing - as Stephie points out. And depending on the fungi, it might not even survive in a living tree - many mushrooms only grow by feeding on dead material, not living wood, and you will have compromised the health of your tree by making so many wounds in it. – Bamboo Jun 19 '18 at 9:42
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    The biggest problem with harvesting maple sap is preventing infections. The growers will be very careful to avoid contamination and close the holes before the weather warms up and fungi become an issue. They know well that drilling a hole into a living tree is always endangering the health of the tree. – Stephie Jun 19 '18 at 14:42
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    Oh, and re. your “don’t they do the same thing” question in the comments: Tapping a maple means a hole that stays empty. Inserting a mushroom plug means introducing the mycelium with the intention that will grow all through the living wood, digesting and destroying it. The mushrooms can’t form fruiting bodies just from the small plug, that would be like an apple tree producing apples while still a seedling. Both first have to grow to a (almost) mature size. – Stephie Jun 22 '18 at 7:24
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    You normally wait a month after cutting a log before innoculation as otherwise there are inhibitory substances that prevent the dowels from taking. – Graham Chiu Nov 4 '18 at 8:40

I know I'm coming in super late to the conversation but I want to add that I believe it is okay to plug "living" "trees" circumstantially if you have a large piece of land and want to infect a tree that you don't mind kill or is already dying although killing the tree is kind of a bummer it's not the end of the world. I live in woods with near no bio diversity with reguard to the trees so if I kill one of the very prominent/invasive trees I will eventually be making room for new growth for something else less prominent. Also I live in property with various vines thick enough to innoculate with a plug. Those vines will slowly kill a tree and I could go through the work of cutting them all down trying to pull them off the trees etc or I could drill a massive hole in them innoculate and hope I have some chicken of the woods next season. If you want to innoculate and have a living tree don't do this. If you are willing to risk the tree dying and getting no mushrooms you can try it.

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Most of the developed species we grow are saprophytic, eating dead wood, similar to the Oyster Mushroom. If one were to inoculate a living tree with these, they may go about as parasites, gradually eating the tree. That is the reason we typically immunize cut logs and stumps with these kinds of mushrooms. In any case, most edible mushrooms out there are not developed on the grounds that they are symbiotic that is, their mycelium lives in tree roots, and furnishes the trees with nutrients as an end-result of sugars. This makes development excessively troublesome and eccentric for commercial growers.

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    Welcome to Gardening SE! Please note that we have a rather strict spam policy and we don’t welcome posts that advertise rather than teach. I removed the questionable parts for now. The help center should explain more about how the site works, you’ll also want to check How to not be a spammer. – Stephie Nov 3 '18 at 21:54

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