Turning an invasive hardwood into an asset: inoculating Ligustrum lucidum logs with a medicinal mushroom, Trametes versicolor, accelerates wood decomposition under field conditions.
Glossy privet (Ligustrum lucidum W. T. Aiton) is a highly aggressive tree that has become globally invasive in a wide range of habitats and can quickly form dense thickets, shading and outcompeting native vegetation. Slowly decomposing slash following removal of dense infestations can create additional management challenges, including fire risk concerns, which curtailed planned invasive plant removal projects on certain tracts within the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve near Austin, TX. This prompted a pilot study to explore whether wood-decaying fungi could be used to hasten the recycling of L. lucidum logs back into the forest ecosystem. We inoculated 25 freshly cut L. lucidum logs with Trametes versicolor (Fr.) Pilat at two study sites and monitored the inoculated logs and 5 untreated control logs over a 3-yr period (February 2015 to March 2018). We found that inoculation significantly accelerated wood decay. By the end of our study, 100% of logs with >3 inoculation points were in advanced stages of decay, while only one of the control logs showed noticeable signs of decay. Inoculating logs in the field was easy and suitable for novices, requiring little or no previous experience to achieve successful results. An added benefit of using T. versicolor is its medicinal properties and potential for bioremediation. We have continued to inoculate logs with comparable success and are integrating them into forest restoration projects. Applied on a larger scale, these wood-decaying fungi have the potential to transform nonnative deadwood from a threat to an asset.