japanese maple threatened by yellow fungus?

Can anybody look at this picture and tell me if my japanese maple is in trouble, and if so, what I can do to help it?
See picture here:
http://www.tomlucht.com/public/pics/jap-maple-yellow-moss.jpg
It was doing well last summer, our first summer in this house. This spring I noticed the leaves are very slow coming back, and others in the neighborhood are much further along. A closer inspection revealed that many of the branches have a yellow moss or fungus, in clumps at the ends and at the joints. On some branches, leaves are coming out (but sickly), but no leaves at all on the branches with the yellow stuff.
Is this something I should be worried about? What should I do?
Thanks, Tom
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Be thankful it there! These are lichens growing on your tree as a substrate only. Like lichens on a rock, they get all of their nutrition from rainwater and simply need a place to grow. They pocked your tree.
This means that the air where you live is not very polluted :)
Your maple is slow in leafing out for others reasons TBD.
--
Mike LaMana, MS
Heartwood Consulting Services, LLC
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It does appear to be some sort of lichen. They're not parasites but usually saprophytes meaning than they most frequently grow on dead wood, bark, etc. The branch may have been winter-killed and the lichen is being an opportunist. If it's a fungus, it's not one I'm familiar with, which wouldn't be a tremendous surprise. On one small, expendable twig, scratch through the gray bark with your fingernail (or knife). If there's some green even just around the edges, you're ok. If all there is is brown, that twig's gone. You can repeat this back to where you see green and prune early, or just wait until things leaf out and then prune out the dead stuff. Here in southern South Carolina, the new leaves on the Japanese maples are in their prime for spring color. Gary

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Lichens are to the best of my knowledge not saprophytes - i.e. they derive no nutrition from the substrate to which they attach. They are merely looking for a place to live. It is interesting that some lichens will only attach to certain species or types of rock etc. This probably derives from chemical signatures in the substrate materials.
--
Mike LaMana, MS
Heartwood Consulting Services, LLC
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I don't know about your maple, but your palm seems to show a long life line. zemedelec
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