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We've moved in to a house with an established plum tree, and have noticed this white growth on the side. Does anyone know what it is? Birds seem to like pecking at it.

Many thanks!

Plum tree growth

2 Answers 2

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It's one of the slime moulds in its sporangium stage (most likely Enteridium lycoperdon) and unfortunately, its presence indicates that either your tree is dead, or is on its way out, for they usually appear on dead wood rather than live. They exist on the bacteria and fungal organisms found on dead or dying wood - it should shortly change appearance and start to degrade, as it spreads its sporangia further abroad. Birds may be attracted to it because fruit flies like to lay their eggs in these, so that's probably what the birds are after. Information in this link https://tryoncreek.wordpress.com/page/10/ but you'll need to scroll down past the stuff about bats which comes first.

If your tree is still alive, and this growth is, as it looks to be, near the base of the tree, you might want to get an arborist (tree surgeon if you're in the UK) to check it over to see if it is safe to leave in situ as it is, or needs removing soon, especially if the tree is in danger of damaging structures or people should it fall.

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  • It is possible that only one part is dead. Common on grafted plants: inevitably one part outgrowth the other (on capillary vases). If you liked such plumes, it is the right moment to keep some branches. Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 12:16
  • @GiacomoCatenazzi - you're right - but this appears to be near the base of what looks like a pretty old tree, with missing bark and a dead area above it, which is why I think it needs checking by an arborist.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 12:25
  • I totally agree, and it will die soon (within few years). My comment was anticipating a question about saving the old variety (to be grafted on a new plant): we already had a similar question, but on a late stage (so without possibility to get a healthy branch). Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 13:00
  • Oh, okay, I see...
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 13:22
  • (OP replying from my normal account). Thank you so much for the detailed answer. That’s a shame it’s on its way out, we inherited it from the previous owner who made jam from the plums. I’ll check with a tree surgeon though, it’s quite tall and close enough to the house that it could be a concern. Thanks again. Oh just to add, it’s producing lots of plums at the moment, in case that changes the prognosis!
    – Chris
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 22:11
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It is a slime mould I found the same thing on my dead oak tree and it is called Enteridium Lycoperdon I think and it is a false puff ball I think. I hope this is good information. 😊

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