Due to the low timber value of Beech wood, there has been no traditional financial incentive to manage forests towards a healthier future.

An American Beech snapped

Beech bark disease is caused by a tiny invasive scale insect (Cryptococcus fagisuga) who's small feeding holes create an entryway for Neonectria fungus species to infect and compromise the tree, often causing them to snap in half within a decade.

Beech bark disease complex arrived ca. 1920 on a shipment of infected European beech seedlings from Europe.

Because the scale insect is non-native, Beech trees never had a need to evolve a natural immunity to it, until now. Starting in the Northeast US, the disease has been spreading along its infecting front like a slow fire, killing over 90% of Beech in its path and wreaking havoc to forest ecosystems as far west as Wisconsin.  

If left unmanaged the dying Beech, in an effort to survive, will sprout hundreds of saplings from their root systems, genetically identical, non-resistant and destined for a premature demise.

This process leaves what are known as "aftermath forests", scrubby areas of suckering, small, diseased trees that choke out other species and never grow large enough to provide a mast (nut crop) to wildlife.

They are only useful for kindling and actively reduce the biodiversity of the ecosystem until collapsing entirely.

But there is hope!

It has been found that about 1-3% of Beech trees are in fact resistant to the scale insect, due to the presence of 2 or 3 genes that have been recently identified.

Forest management studies have shown that felling diseased Beech and allowing resistant trees to pollinate each other leads to a high percentage of blight resistant saplings generating in the understory.

However, due to the low timber value of Beech wood there has been no traditional financial incentive to manage forests towards a healthier future.  
The Beech tree is an important species for many reasons. It provides habitat and food for a diversity of wildlife.

The mortality rates of black bear cubs from season to season is directly related to Beech mast.

They are a major substrate for turkey tail, lions mane, the violet toothed polypore and tinder conks, assisted in their spread by woodpeckers. And we just love them and their smooth elephant eye trunks.  

Lion's Mane fruting from a standing American Beech

could this become a financial engine/motivation to finance proper Beech management practices?

When we found a massive Hericium americanum growing on a dying Beech at the inaugural Compost cup, an idea was spawned.

What if wild hericium could be cloned and spread back in their regions by inoculating whole diseased Beech trees?

And if this worked, could we use it as the financial engine/motivation to finance proper Beech management practices?

In recent years Lions Mane has emerged as a viable cash crop for small scale mushroom farmers, dries well and is perfect for value-added products.  

A community effort

We knew mushroom logs would work, but wanted to try an new method where the logs would never need to be transported or dunked for rehydration, eliminating 95% of the labor involved. Additionally, it isn't wise to knowingly move diseases around. While a higher biological efficiency can be obtained through babying logs, it would be much less realistic to scale up. So, we decided to inoculate whole trees.  

A study in standing trees

We used a battery powered angle grinder to inoculate whole felled trees as well as some still standing, experimenting with different inoculation patterns, wild strains, locations and trees in various states of decay. We used tools that anyone could employ with zero mycology skills.

Inoculating a standing American Beech with Hericium located only yards away
applying wax to newly inoculated beech logs

The forest provides the opportunity

For felled logs, we try to work with the contours of land to allow for the best potential fruiting conditions.

What's unique in this situation is that we're inoculating logs with Lion's Mane that was located just yards away, then cultured & cloned by the MycoGenerative team.

Scale Identification

We only felled the trees that were clearly infected with scale, as you can safely determine that you are not unknowingly cutting down a resistant tree. Scale is easy to identify, appearing as a white fuzzy powdered sugar like substance on the bark of trees. An added benefit of felling these ticking time bombs was the ability to minimize the damage they caused on their way down.  

Today we can:

  • Identify symptoms of Beech Bark Disease
  • Identify disease-resistant tree candidates
  • Realize short term foraging opportunities
  • Find wild specimens and donate
Felling diseased American Beech trees

MycoGenerative helps with: