After the first season of the new hit zombie-fungus show, The Last of Us, aired on HBO, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) took the opportunity to warn New Yorkers about a very different kind of potentially dangerous fungus.

While the Cordyceps fungus (which is real, by the way, and affects ants and similar insects instead of humans) turns people into zombies in The Last of Us, the NYS DEC is more focused on a fungus that can slowly be destroying backyards trees.

The artist's conk fungus can spell disaster for your backyard tree (nickkurzenko/Dcwcreations via Canva)
The artist's conk fungus can spell disaster for your backyard tree (nickkurzenko/Dcwcreations via Canva)

The "Zombie Fungus" on New York Trees

"Just finished the first season of The Last Of Us and have fungus on the brain?", began the recent Facebook post. "Though your tree may look healthy on the outside, there are often signs that something sinister may be brewing on the inside." The post was referring to a fungus called "artist's conk".

nickkurzenko via Canva
nickkurzenko via Canva

Artist's Conk Fungus in New York

While artist's conk fungus are noninvasive and part of the natural New York ecosystem, they could also spell danger, especially for trees in close proximity to houses and backyards. The fungus survives by feeding off the tree, and this damage can be quite significant after many years. Trees can eventually be killed by the fungus, turning into, as the NYS DEC so dramatically described, "a hollow zombie waiting to snap during the next storm".

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Before taking any drastic action, it's important to remember that the presence of artist's conk does not automatically mean your tree is dead and ready to fall on your home. As the NYS DEC stresses, it takes years and even decades for the fungus to cause that level of damage to its "host". Learn more about residential tree care here.

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