garden tree

The case of the black moss

A couple of years back I planted a fever tree outside our gate.  The tree never really took off.  It didn’t die or look sickly, it just never seemed to grow.  I put it down to the fact that the soil I had planted it in was this terrible, sandy, red earth and decided to give it some time to come right.

However, earlier this year, I noticed a black moss growing on the trunk and branches of the tree and thought I better do something about it.  First I Googled black moss but didn’t come up with anything useful.  Then I went to take a closer look at the tree and noticed hundreds of small, black ants moving up and down the tree trunk.  Could the ‘black moss’ actually be the ants footprints, I wondered?

After a bit more Googling, I found something that surprised me.  Both the ants and black moss were indicator species, pointing to the real culprit, aphids.  I went back to inspect the tree for a third time and lo and behold, there in the leaves, were hundreds of tiny aphids.