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  • James Neal

Westlands Park in Greenwood Village | Phytopathology

Phytopathology is quickly becoming my amateur passion!

Today, my plan is to share some of the activities I engage in aside from chess. One of these is going to the park and photographing things I find interesting. I realize my documenting of these activities can benefit society by encouraging people to go outside and explore. I brought with me my phone for crisp photos, my video camera for capturing wildlife, and my iPad for research.


My original plan was venturing through the park in search of some insects but reality set in. This picture is fitting since it is the beginning of December and likely too cold for any insects unless they were hiding under a rock. I walked along the trails taking photos of fruited bushes but the only creature I could find was a squirrel. I stuck around to take some videos of a large gaggle of geese but, I have to admit, my intellectual curiosity was not stimulated until I was returning to my vehicle.

I approached a tree that did not appear to be in great shape. I am reading a book on plant pathology and I saw in this sickly tree an opportunity. The fallen bark was a definite sign of trouble but I wanted to first identify the species. The fruit of this tree was a bean pod but my books required a leaf for quick identification. I narrowed the tree down to a Black Locust based on the pod and the leaf. I have a feeling I might be wrong because I am in Colorado and the Black Locust is dominant in the east side of the country. However, I could be right since it is not likely to naturally grow in a parking lot. If we were to confirm this tree as a Black Locust, its sickly condition might be justified with it being grown outside its natural habitat.

In addition to the fallen bark, I noticed there were small holes in the trunk and a branch that was barely holding itself upright. The holes are likely due to boring insects which will make a nice research topic for another post. The condition of the branch could have been due to its sickly condition. My first thought was the branch had been damaged by a human hanging from it but that normally would have brought it down. The tree is nearing its end and may have one or two more growing seasons before it’s completely dead (Conjecture).

I conducted a quick internet search this morning and came upon a Hypoxylon canker as a possible explanation for the tree’s fallen bark. It was said the fungus has a low infection rate among healthy trees which means the tree was likely in poor shape before the peeling took place. My theory is a car pulled into the lot and pressed its weight against the tree branch. It might have been early in the year around March but tree contracted the Hypoxylon canker as a result of the leaking sap. There is a possibility for this injury to have occurred later but I believe the tree would stop sending sap to the branch if the injury had been later than one growing season.

My theory is weak but it’s a start. I might provide some other possibilities but probably not an update on the tree’s condition since I am planning to move to Oregon in about two weeks.

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