Fungi foils High Country fall foliage |

Fungi foils High Country fall foliage

Fungi growth spurred by 2015's wet spring and early summer will mean aspen and cottonwood leaves will turn less vibrant shades of yellow and orange this year, especially compared to the brilliant fall colors of 2014.
Bill Linfield / Special to the Daily |

Some stands of aspen and cottonwood trees across northern Colorado and along the Front Range won’t be at their most picturesque this fall due to leaf spot diseases that benefitted from an unusually wet spring and early summer.

For about the past month, foresters have seen an abnormally-high degree of leaf blight in the mountains, ranging from Aspen to the Collegiate Peaks to Colorado Springs. At least two fungal diseases are to blame.

Marssonina fungus caused the most common leaf disease of aspen and cottonwoods in Colorado. The blight can be identified by dark brown spots or flecks on leaves, which can then fuse into large, black splotches on severely infected leaves.

Also active now, mainly on cottonwoods, the Septoria fungus causes tan spots that become irregular brown-to-black spots coalescing to cover much of the leaf by late summer.

“These diseases rarely cause any permanent tree damage or death,” said Dan West, entomologist for the Colorado State Forest Service, “but this is the highest level our foresters have seen in many years for some parts of the state.”

He said trees with these leaf spot diseases display less vibrant colors and can drop leaves prematurely, but often the trees are mixed among stands of healthy trees, leaving plenty of beautiful Colorado foliage for fall viewing.

Because these fungi overwinter on fallen leaves infected the previous year, he said the best management option for homeowners this fall is sanitation.

Remove any diseased material by raking up and disposing of infected leaves and twigs, and try to keep leaves on the trees as dry as possible by changing watering patterns or maintaining space between trees.

“This is a natural phenomenon, and, despite how they look, these trees should leaf out again next year,” he said.

For more information about leaf spot concerns for aspen, cottonwood and other poplar species, visit

Volunteers needed Sunday for habitat restoration

The Tenderfoot Mountain Road (#66.2B) in Frey Gulch was recently closed and rehabilitated to improve water quality and habitat for fish and other wildlife.

Fish populations in Frey Gulch were negatively affected by sediment from the road, and its rehabilitation will stabilize soils and minimize sediment habitat impacts. The former road also accessed an area managed as a movement corridor for carnivores, and an elk herd uses the area year-round.

District wildlife biologist Ashley Nettles said, “Restoration of this road will provide increased availability of habitat for all wildlife species including important prey species for Canada lynx.”

The road was recently ripped and re-contoured along with heavy machinery, and native grass seed was applied. Now the U.S. Forest Service is seeking volunteer help with fine-tuning the restoration project.

Volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 13, at the parking lot across from the weigh-in station at the Summit County Landfill and carpool to the worksite.

Then volunteers will plant about 200 trees, decommission fencing, drag and scatter slash into the road and collect and scatter native seeds to promote habitat growth.

The project will wrap up by 3 p.m., and light refreshments will be provided.

For more information or to register for the project, call Friends of the Dillon Ranger District at (970) 262-3449 or visit

Hanging Lake to be closed Saturday

Due to extensive trail work on Saturday, Sept. 12, both the Hanging Lake trail and parking lot will be closed to the public all day.

Staff from the Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District will be assisting the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, known locally as the RFOV, and work will include installing new benches along the trail, improving the Spouting Rock Trail above the lake, completing other improvements on the main Hanging Lake Trail and erecting barriers to protect the delicate wetland between the lake and the falls.

The project is a continuation of several years work by RFOV and the Forest Service to improve conditions on the trail.

David Hamilton, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteer’s director, said the project could still use volunteers on Saturday to help maintain and improve the area for recreation. Those wishing to volunteers can find more information at

For further information, contact White River National Forest public affairs officer Bill Kight at (970) 930-1178.

Send local environment news to reporter Alli Langley at

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