Contents

How to Make a Natural Fungus Fighter Soil Drench

Fungus infection is definitely a concern for gardeners. Approximately 8,000 diseases are caused by fungal infection alone in plants. The most common ones are rust, club root, black rot, black spots, bottom rot, cotton ball, damping off, dry rot, root rot, and yellow spot. Fungi usually thrive in damp and dark places. Even if one plant in your garden gets infected, the infection is bound to spread to other plants and cause considerable damage to your garden within a short period of time. Although the infection can be successfully contained in most cases, it is better to prevent the infection before it spreads.

In order to prevent fungus infection in plants, we should first understand the life cycle of fungi. Spores of fungi are very light and hence travel from one place to another by air. These spores settle on almost anything. Usually, the moist and dark areas of your garden are the thriving ground of such spores. So, it is important to keep the soil well drained to avoid fungal infection. However, if you detect fungal infection in your garden plants, then try some natural methods to help the plants fight the infection.

Homemade Soil Drenches

Soil drench is prepared by adding some external agents to the soil to help the plants fight pests and infections. The following things from your kitchen can be used as effective soil drenches:

  • Cornmeal – This soil drench can be easily prepared at home by grinding dried corns. Horticulture cornmeal is easily available in market, but preparing cornmeal at home is a cost-effective option. Add 2 oz of cornmeal to a gallon of water and water your plants. If there is some sort of infection on the plants and not the roots, simply spray the mixture on the plants to get rid of the infection.
  • Garlic – Although this soil drench emits that foul odor of garlic, it is a very effective fungicide. Add half a cup of garlic juice to five gallons of water and mix it well. Use this mixture to water plants or spray it on plant body to eliminate fungus infections.
  • Lime – Lime soil drench not only removes fungal infections, but also helps in decreasing the pH level of your soil. This particular soil drench is mainly useful for plants that are suffering from clubbed root fungal infection. Squeeze juice of 4 limes in a gallon of water and use it for watering plants. The same mixture can also be used as a spray for removing any other fungal infections on plant body.
  • Garrett Juice – Prepare a cup of tea of any natural compost. Strain it and add the following to it – 1 oz liquid seaweed, an ounce of molasses, and 1 oz apple cider vinegar. This concoction not only helps in fighting fungal infections, but also stimulates the root growth of plants.

Fungal infections on leaves or other parts of plants can be eliminated using vinegar fungus fighter concoction. In two gallons of water add six tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons of vegetable or citrus oil, two tablespoons of dark molasses, and one tablespoon of baking soda. Spray it on affected areas of plant in mornings and evenings. Repeat this procedure for a week to completely eliminate the fungal infections. Cut and remove the infected parts, if needed.

Here are the common types of soil-borne pathogens:

  • Fungi – the most common soil-borne pathogens. However, not every fungus causes plant problems and while the vast majority do not, over 8,000 fungi species do. And most plants are susceptible to some type of fungus.
    • Root rots cause the root system to begin to decay. The pathogens infect the plant’s roots and block the uptake and flow of water and nutrients through the plant. Symptoms may include wilting, yellowing, stunting, dieback and eventual death and can be confused with other problems such as drought and nutrient deficiencies. Some common root rot fungi include Cylindrocladium, Pythium, Phytophthora, and Rhizoctonia.
    • Stem, collar, and crown rots affect the plant at ground level. Symptoms are similar to root rots, but since the rotting start above the soil line, it can be easier to detect early. Common pathogens to watch out for include: Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, Sclerotinia, and Sclerotium.
    • Wilt diseases, like Fusarium oxysporum and Verticillium spp. cause wilting of the plants, despite adequate water. There are also usually internal symptoms.
    • Damping-off diseases affect young seedlings. They can be caused by a handful of fungi, including Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia and Sclerotium rolfsii. They can infect the plants at germination or shortly after, causing sudden death. This is why the use of garden soil for seed starting is not recommended.
  • Bacteria – less common pathogens (and most don’t stick around long). Some examples: Erwinia (soft rot), Rhizomonas (corky root of lettuce) Streptomyces (potato scab, soft rot of sweet potatoes)
  • Viruses – rare, thankfully, and most require living plant tissue to survive, but they can also hitch a ride on fungi or nematodes and flow in on water. When a virus enters a plant cell, it can cause the cell to produce more virus cells. Lettuce necrotic stunt virus affects Romaine lettuce plants, causing stunting and yellowing and sometimes spotting of lower leaves, while newer leaves remain green and thick.
  • Nematodes – sometimes called roundworms, nematodes are unsegmented worms with round bodies and points at both ends. Some are parasitic, like the nematodes sold to feed on beetle larvae in the lawn. And some will feed on or in roots. This is especially problematic for root crops, like carrots. Root rot nematodes are probably the most familiar. They cause distortion and swelling of roots and can affect the plant’s vigor. Needle nematodes feed on the tips of roots, causing branching and swelling. And stubby root nematodes caused – yes – short, stubby roots.

How can I get rid of funguses in the soil?

by Ryan
(Pflugerville, TX)

Q. I have 2 tomato plants from last year that I saved. They where doing well, but we had a wet winter. The water drained away from the base of the tomatoes. But recently, I noticed that the tomato plants started to get yellow leaves, then brown. Then they dropped the green leaves. The plants never got better so I pulled them up.

After studying them, I believe the plants contracted either fusarium wilthref> or verticillium wilthref>.
Here is my question: will it spread? How can I get rid of these two funguses?
A. To date, there is no chemical treatment available for fusarium wilt and verticillium wilt.

  • Destroy infected plants immediately.
  • To slow the diseases, keep soil pH between 6.5 and 7.0 and use a nitrate-based nitrogen fertilizer rather than an ammonia-based nitrogen fertilizer.
  • Avoid planting other Solanaceous crops (potato, pepper, and eggplant) in the same area, too – they are susceptible to the fungus.
  • At the end of the season, set dry leaves or straw on affected area. Burn to kill fungus in the soil.
  • Rotate crops.

Learn more here:
Fusarium wilthref>
Verticillium wilthref>
Good luck and happy gardening!
Your friends at Tomato Dirt

Saprophyte

Saprophyte Definition

A saprophyte, also referred to as a saprobe or saprotroph, is any organism that feeds and grows on dead organisms. This means that a saprophyte is a decomposer, breaking down complex matter and absorbing the simpler products. Since saprophytes rely on dead plant and animal bodies for food, rather than producing their own as autotrophs do, they are heterotrophs. Keep in mind that although it is still used, saprophyte may be a misleading name, since –phyte means plant. What makes this an issue is that it has been found that no land plants truly feed in the manner that a saprophyte does, but it may seem like it when plants use fungi to acquire nutrients.

Saprophytic nutrition is usually displayed by bacteria and fungi living in moist environments. They decompose organic dead and decaying matter by extracellular digestion, which is the secretion of digestive juices that break down matter around them. In the case of fungi, we find that most are multicellular saprophytes. They grow tubular structures, or hyphae, which are filaments that grow and branch into the dead matter, produce digestive enzymes, and digest away the dead organism. The fungi then absorb the simple substances through their hyphae, which can in time grow into a mycelium, or a mass of hyphae, as seen below.

While extracellular digestion is the means by which most fungi and bacteria acquire their nutrition, bacteria are simpler organisms and do not produce hyphae.

In addition to their preference for humid environments, most saprophytes require oxygen to survive and would die in its absence. They cannot stand very high temperatures, and they thrive in environments with neutral to slightly acidic pH levels.

Function of a Saprophyte

An example of a substance that is only broken down by saprophytes is lignin, which is a major component in many plants and is what gives trees their tough characteristics. Additionally, a saprophyte is helpful to the ecosystem because as it decomposes the bodies of dead organisms, it recycles and releases nutrients into the environment, making them available for other organisms to use. This is especially important for plant growth.

  • Detritivore – An animal that lives off dead and decaying matter.
  • Parasite – An organism that lives on another living organism and causes it harm.
  • Photosynthesis – The process where green plants and other organisms use sunlight to synthesize their own food from carbon dioxide and water.

Quiz

1. How do saprophytic fungi acquire nutrients?
A. By digesting food within their stomachs
B. Through photosynthesis
C. By extracellular digestion, performed by hyphae
D. By eating other living organisms

Answer to Question #1 C is correct. Hyphae grow through the dead material and secrete digestive juices in order to break down organic matter and absorb simple products.

2. Which of the following is true of most fungi?
A. They are autotrophic
B. They are multicellular saprophytes
C. They are unicellular saprophytes
D. They are unicellular parasites

Answer to Question #2 B is correct. Most fungi are multicellular, not unicellular, and are saprophytes that decompose matter.

3. Which of the following describes a mycelium?
A. It is a network of connected hyphae
B. It is the digestive juice produced by hyphae
C. It is the digestive tract of a saprophyte
D. It is a parasitic fungus

Answer to Question #3 A is correct. We refer to the mass of hyphae as a mycelium.

Is Mold in Your Soil Good or Bad?

March 17, 2017 0 Comments

A Lesson in Microbiology

Mold. Even the word does not sound pleasant. However, do not let it’s nasty reputation fool you; when it comes to gardening mold is a sign of life.

At PittMoss our mission is to make the best soil amendments and blends on the market. For us, a sustainable and organic approach goes hand in hand with superior results for plants. So when some consumers discover mold in our products, our dedication to this mission becomes tested. Should we deliver an aesthetically familiar product to consumers even if it sacrifices it’s benefits, or risk our first year on the market to stay true to our mission? Might sound like a tough decision, but when you are on a mission to disrupt dirt, the choice is clear. We believe consumers care about what they plant into, and that progress in a sustainable natural world requires innovation.

To start dispelling the old mold myths of living soil and all the awesome biologic activity that comes with it, we are going to break down what can be seen in our own PittMoss products.

Explaining the Wonderful World of Fungi

The spores that produce mold, or fungi, are an underappreciated partner in the garden. For example, they are present, to some degree, in every common organic gardening mix, from peat moss to bark. However, you do not see them until spores produce fruiting bodies (like mold)- only when certain conditions are met. Many products are treated to stop this growth and improve the aesthetics of their products. PittMoss is purposefully produced to encourage natural growth, since we are in the business of growing plants sustainably. So if the product is left in a warm, humid environment or lacks access to air, biological activity will occur. This activity is perfectly normal and natural. Mold comes from an ancient group of simple plants, called “hyphomycetes” (say that five times fast). It is these fungi that scientists consider foundational to our natural world. Don’t believe us? Check out this Ted Talk. In fact, organic gardeners can attest that gardening with “living soil” that represents the natural world is the ideal environment for plants. We could spend a few blog posts on the subject of the benefits of living soil and microbes, but for now it is broken down nicely here.

“Soil organisms show their greatest diversity of species and usually their largest populations in productive soils. The size of the microbial biomass usually shows direct correlation with the amount of plant growth…” – Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry by E.A. Paul and F.E. Clark, Academic Press, Inc. 1989, page 12

A Breakdown of Microbes

A quality growing mix should support a full array of beneficial soil microbes. These “Friends in the Soil” provide for the availability and absorption of essential plant nutrients. They also help to fight root diseases and break down toxins. In general terms these microbial workers are classified as:

BACTERIA – non-visible are very small single-celled microorganisms found in growing media, native soils and compost. They are the most numerous and are only visible with a microscope. They respond quickly in favorable environments where populations multiply rapidly under favorable conditions. They produce enzymes that dissolve and transform minerals making them more available to plants. The nitrogen converting bacteria nitrosomonas and nitrobacter are the most noteworthy. Bacillus and azotobacter and the thiobascillus are very important. Bacteria do not form fruiting bodies above the surface of a growing substrate.

FUNGI – primitive (simple) plants that typically form multi-celled filaments in the growing mix. These filaments form a network called mycelium that grow in the media. Many fungi grow in association with the roots and are called micorrhizae fungi. Like most fungi they serve to decompose organic material and make nutrients available to plants but the micorrhizae also help plants absorb nutrients. Some common families of fungi include ascomycetes, basidiomycetes, trichodermas, and zygomycetes. When conditions are optimal they develop fruiting bodies which produce white or tan growth on the surface of a mix. The spores and surface mycelium are commonly referred to as mold.

ACTINOMYCETES – are in between bacteria and fungi in size and complexity. They form long chains of cells within the growing media. They typically give soil the familiar earthy or musty smell. They often have anti-bacterial and disease fighting properties. Some common families of actinomycetes include micomonospora, thermoactinomycetes and streptomycetes which is a source of the familiar antibiotic streptomiacin. The fruiting bodies are like tiny mushrooms or puff balls.

ALGAE – simple plants that grow within and on the surface of nutrient rich soil and growing media. They are the most widely distributed of all green plants. Sometimes called cyanobacteria they are primarily water plants and develop where high levels of water or very high humidity are present. Primarily blue-green algae are the type that commonly grows on the surface of a constantly moist growing mix. Algae causes no harm but is an indicator of conditions that are often excessively humid and wet. These conditions can foster other undesirable infestations of insects and pests.

Biological Activity Seen in PittMoss

The Fungal Matt (mycelium) of zygomycete spp. in a blend of 60% PittMoss Prime Soil Amendment, 30% sphagnum, and 10% perlite. This fungi works to make components in the growing mix more soluble. That allows for easier plant absorption.

Bacidomycete spp. fruiting (sporulating) bodies on the surface of a blend containing 50% PittMoss Prime Soil Amendment. They are also often considered “Higher Fungi”. They are often associated with root systems and act as an ectomycorrhiza. They are known to enhance the availability of nutrients and nutrient absorption.

Composting is enhanced by exceptional microbiological activity of PittMoss. That is demonstrated in the photo of a pile as seen below. Below a depth of about 12” in the pile the composting fungi can be seen (bottom half of photo) as a white fungal mycelial growth. It was clearly present after about 14 days in a composting pile. Microorganisms such as Trichoderma spp., Ascomycete spp., Basidiomycete spp., and Zygomycetes spp. release enzymes that help to breakdown the substrate materials making them much more available to plants.

Ascomycetes spp. These fruiting (sporulating) bodies are growing on PittMoss – They are often considered “Higher Fungi” and grow within a soil and on or near root surfaces producing mycorhizal associations that increase nutrient solubility and absorption.

Some FAQ’s

So if all this biological activity is good, is it bad if I do not see any mold?

Whether you can see the activity or not depends on a variety of environmental conditions. Nonetheless, these microorganisms will always be found in gardening blends even if they do not become visible.

This all sounds good, but I really want to avoid seeing any microbial growth.

Managing the environment will greatly reduce the occurrence of fruiting bodies. PittMoss should be stored in a cool dry space with available air circulation (for example, leaving the bag slightly open) mold is unlikely to occur.

Should I expect mold in my product?

More often then not, you will not see any visible growth. The microbes produce fruiting bodies when not properly stored (see the previous question). Also, mold will not remain. In fact, after the first bloom any subsequent growth will be minimal.

If I see mold in my mix, what do I do?

At PittMoss we recommend simply mixing it up with? the rest of the product. It should integrate nicely back into the soil.

Is this the same thing as a “living soil”?

Yes! The idea behind a living soil is that the nutrients that plants needed to grow are provided through naturally occurring soil microbiology, like the fungi and microbes described in this blog. Just think- the forests grow plants without the need for any additional fertilizer! That is because these soils are teeming with beneficial microbes that provide the plants the nutrients they need.

Click here to see how PittMoss is changing the game!

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What’s in the soil?

Lately I have had many queries about what looks like white stuff in the soil of various gardens. I have seen it in my vegetable gardens when harvesting vegetables. Its very common and isn’t a bad thing so don’t panic. Its called mycelium. Its a typical fungus made up of tiny threads called hyphae. I know another foreign word. Stay with me, its not that complicated.

White threads fill the soil

When you look at the white stuff in the soil, grab a magnifying glass. The threads or hyphae branch out in all directions throughout the soil. Fungi are found primarily in aerated surface layers rich in organic matter. Its often seen when harvesting vegetables.

What’s in my soil?

If your soil is rich in organic matter, often you will see mushrooms develop from the mycelium. Mycelium will always be present in the soil as long as there is nutrients available. It is said that mycelium is the Internet of the soil bringing connections to all living matter.
There is also a lot of bacteria in the soil. When I tell children that they step back as if its something to be afraid of. When I tell them that its good bacteria they don’t understand. We have brainwashed our children to think that all bacteria is bad and it just isn’t so. Estimates range from 10-100 million bacteria exist in one gram of soil. We need bacteria in the soil as they act as decomposers.
Bacteria and fungi are not the only things living in our soils. We also have algae and actinomycetes. Algae are often found on poorly drained soils and live near the soil surface. Actinomycetes, I know another big one, are widespread in the soil. They are involved in the decomposition of organic residues in the soil. They do best in soils with a PH over 5. Did you know that many of our antibiotics are produced from actinomycetes?
So there you have it, lots of microorganisms occupy our soils. We just can’t see most of them as well as the mycelium. Don’t forget that we also have an animal population in our soils as well. From nematodes to protozoa, earthworms and insects, there is amazing life happening right below our feet.
So next time you walk over your garden, tread lightly. Treat the soil right by growing organically. There is life below there that should be treasured.

Those Mysterious Molds, Part 1: “The Blob”

They are common following rains or irrigation during the warmer months anywhere there is ample organic matter. This includes lawns, mulched areas, compost piles, bare soil, tree stumps and old logs. Sometimes they even “climb” a few inches up walls or the base of plants. They are not known to be harmful at all to plants or animals (including humans). Before coming to the soil surface to scare and gross out humans, they migrate through the soil as large amoebae (called plasmodia) ingesting tiny bits of decaying debris, bacteria and other microorganisms. They are not associated with any plant disease. Rather, they are an important component of the soil ecosystem and indicate that there is a decent amount of moisture and organic matter in the soil. This is a good thing, because landscape plants normally do well in soil with ample moisture and organic matter. Undisturbed, they can last for weeks in the yard until a good rain washes the spores back into the soil. Animals, including curious children armed with sticks and lawn men with lawnmowers, will also hasten the weathering process by scattering their spores to the wind.

Fungus

Fungus, plural fungi, any of about 144,000 known species of organisms of the kingdom Fungi, which includes the yeasts, rusts, smuts, mildews, molds, and mushrooms. There are also many funguslike organisms, including slime molds and oomycetes (water molds), that do not belong to kingdom Fungi but are often called fungi. Many of these funguslike organisms are included in the kingdom Chromista. Fungi are among the most widely distributed organisms on Earth and are of great environmental and medical importance. Many fungi are free-living in soil or water; others form parasitic or symbiotic relationships with plants or animals.

  • panther cap mushroomPanther cap mushrooms (Amanita pantherina). Closely related to the death cap mushroom (Amanita phalloides), the panther cap is highly poisonous.© asfloro/Fotolia
  • Podostroma cornu-damaeToxic fruiting bodies of the fungus Podostroma cornu-damae. The fungus can be confused with edible varities and has been responsible for a number of fatalities in Japan and Korea.Image Republic Inc./Alamy
  • artist’s conkArtist’s conk (Ganoderma applanatum), a bracket fungi. Distributed worldwide, the artist’s conk is a wood-decaying fungus that primarily grows on dead or dying trees. Eric Steinert
  • The fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) is a poisonous fungus.Sven Samelius

Top Questions

How do fungi obtain nutrition?

  • Saprotrophic fungi obtain their food from dead organic material and are ecologically useful decomposers.
  • Parasitic fungi feed on living organisms (usually plants), thus causing disease.
  • To feed, both types of fungi secrete digestive enzymes into the nutritive surface on which they are growing. The enzymes break down carbohydrates and proteins, which are then absorbed through the walls of the hyphae.
  • Some parasitic fungi also produce special absorptive organs called haustoria, to penetrate deeper into the living tissues of the host.

Read more below: Form and function of fungi: Nutrition

What is a fungal spore?

Nearly all fungi form and release vast quantities of spores as part of their life cycle. Spores are the main reproductive units for fungi and are usually single cells. They may be produced either directly by asexual methods or indirectly by sexual reproduction. Spores are commonly formed by the fragmentation of the mycelium or within specialized structures (sporangia, gametangia, sporophores, etc.). Some spores, especially those of primitive fungi, have flagella and can swim, though most are nonmotile. When a spore lands in a suitable location, it germinates and grows to form a new fungal individual.

Read more below: Form and function of fungi: Sporophores and spores

Where do fungi grow?

Fungi grow in a wide variety of environments around the globe. Most fungi are terrestrial and are found in all temperate and tropical areas. A few species live in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, usually as part of lichens. Soil rich in organic matter is an ideal habitat for many species, and only a small number of fungi are found in drier areas or in habitats with little or no organic matter. Some fungi are parasites on plants or animals and live on or within their hosts for at least part of their life cycle. Aquatic fungi usually inhabit clean, cool fresh water, though some species are found in slightly brackish water, and a few thrive in highly polluted streams.

Read more below: Form and function of fungikingdom FungiLearn about the important characteristics that distinguish fungi from plants and animals.Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.See all videos for this article

Fungi are eukaryotic organisms; i.e., their cells contain membrane-bound organelles and clearly defined nuclei. Historically, fungi were included in the plant kingdom; however, because fungi lack chlorophyll and are distinguished by unique structural and physiological features (i.e., components of the cell wall and cell membrane), they have been separated from plants. In addition, fungi are clearly distinguished from all other living organisms, including animals, by their principal modes of vegetative growth and nutrient intake. Fungi grow from the tips of filaments (hyphae) that make up the bodies of the organisms (mycelia), and they digest organic matter externally before absorbing it into their mycelia.

While mushrooms and toadstools (poisonous mushrooms) are by no means the most numerous or economically significant fungi, they are the most easily recognized. The Latin word for mushroom, fungus (plural fungi), has come to stand for the whole group. Similarly, the study of fungi is known as mycology—a broad application of the Greek word for mushroom, mykēs. Fungi other than mushrooms are sometimes collectively called molds, although this term is better restricted to fungi of the sort represented by bread mold. (For information about slime molds, which exhibit features of both the animal and the fungal worlds, see protist.)

porcini mushroomEdible porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis). Porcini mushrooms are widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere and form symbiotic associations with a number of tree species.© Henk Bentlage/Fotolia

Origins of Scientific Names of Fungi; Authors and Convention for Citation

Genus names – Specific epithets – Citation Convention – Standard Abbreviations and Author Biographies

Problems with using common names given to fungi

Unfortunately some common names refer to as many as a dozen different fungi species, often from different genera. To complicate matters further, some mushrooms species have several common names. Using common names is okay if you don’t mind being misunderstood occasionally, but when getting your message across really matters using common names is far too risky. Scientific names, sometimes referred to as Latin names, refer to one and only one fungus species.

Strictly speaking there is nothing particularly scientific about the ‘scientific’ names of fungi. They arose via botany, and botanical names are based on an archaic language no longer spoken but serving merely as notation. (Arguments about pronunciation do seem rather pointless, therefore.) The advantage, however, is that a botanical name means the same to botanists (and mycologists) throughout the world; it avoids ambiguity. Well, that’s the idea, at least…

Origins and meanings of fungi genus names

The information below is a summarized version of one of the appendices in Pat O’Reilly’s latest book, ‘Fascinated by Fungi’. For full details and sample pages see our Bookshop, where you can order an author-signed copy online…

A genus name is given to a group of fungi with similar physical characteristics that are confined essentially to that group. The name, usually derived from either medieval or – Classical Latin or as a latinized version of a Greek word, may be chosen in honour of a person, as a reference to a place or a kind of habitat, or to denote a prominent characteristic of the group of fungi. (There are also a few scientific names that have no real meaning – perhaps as a result of an initial misidentification.) Here are some commonly encountered genus names and their origins/meanings:

Agaricus

of the country

Laetiporus

bright/abundant

Agrocybe

field cap/head

Leccinum

fungus

Aleuria

wheat flour

Lentinus

pliable, or sticky

Amanita

Mount Amanus

Lenzites

Harald Othmar Lenz

Armillaria

like a bracelet

Leotia

smooth mushroom

Asterophora

star-shaped spores

Lepiota

scaly mushroom

Astraeus

star

Lepista

wine goblet

Auricularia

ear

Leucoagaricus

white Agaricus

Bankera

Howard J Banker

Lycoperdon

wolf’s flatulence

Bjerkandera

Clas Bjerkander

Lyophyllum

loose or free gills

Bolbitius

cow pat

Macrocystidia

large cystidia

Boletus

a clod

Macrolepiota

large and scaly

Bulgaria

leather bag

Marasmius

withered

Calocera

beautiful horn

Melanoleuca

black

Calocybe

beautiful head

Meripilus

partitioned cap

Calvatia

bald/hairless

Morchella

morel

Camarophyllus

vaulted gills

Mutinus

phallic deity

Cantharellus

chalice/cup

Mycena

mushroom

Chlorociboria

green-yellow chalice

Neobulgaria

new leather bag

Clathrus

iron grid/lattice

Nidula

little nest

Clavaria

like a club

Omphalina

little navel

Clitocybe

sloping head

Otidea

ear

Clitopilus

sloping cap

Oudemansiella

Corneille Oudemans

Collybia

like a small coin

Panaeolus

variegated

Coprinus

dung

Panellus

ragged

Cordyceps

swollen head

Paxillus

small stake/stick/peg

Coriolus

leathery

Peziza

stalkless mushroom

Cortinarius

with a curtain

Phaelepiota

dusky and smooth

Crepidotus

slipper

Phaeolus

dusky

Cystoderma

blistered skin

Phallus

phallus

Daedalea

labyrinthine

Phellinus

corky

Daldinia

charred wood

Pholiota

scaly

Dermocybe

skin-head

Piptoporus

detachable pores

Entoloma

(margin) inrolled

Pisolithus

pea in stone

Exidia

staining/exuding

Pleurotus

sideways (attached)

Fistulina

tube or pipe

Polyporus

many pores

Flammulina

flame

Psathyrella

brittle/fragile

Fomes

tinder

Psilocybe

bare/smooth head

Galerina

helmet

Ramaria

branching

Ganoderma

lustrous skin

Russula

reddish

Geastrum

earth star

Sarcodon

fleshy with teeth

Geoglossum

earth tongue

Schizophyllum

split gills

Gomphidius

peg, stake or nail

Scleroderma

hard skin

Grifola

braided hair of griffin

Serpula

snake

Gymnopilus

naked head

Stereum

hard

Hebeloma

blunt

Strobilomyces

pine cones

Helvella

aromatic herb

Stropharia

belt

Hericium

hedgehog

Suillus

swine (pigs)

Heterobasidion

irregular base

Thelephora

having nipples

Hydnum

mushroom

Trametes

thin

Hygrocybe

moist head

Tremella

trembling, like a jelly

Hygrophorus

water carrier

Tricholoma

hairy/fibrous

Hypholoma

fringed with tissue

Tubaria

trumpet

Inocybe

fibre head

Tulostoma

knob on a club

Inonotus

fibrous

Tylopilus

lumpy cap

Kuehneromyces

Robert Kühner

Volvariella

volva or bag

Laccaria

painted

Xerocomus

dry

Lacrymaria

tears (as in crying)

Xylaria

woody

Lactarius

milk

The origin and meaning of fungi species names (specific epithets)

The bases of specific epithets of some common fungi are indicated in the table below. (Variable endings such as lucida, lucidus, lucidum have not been given multiple entries.)

abietus

fir trees

fascicularia

bundled

acaulis

stemless

ferruginosa

rusty

acerbum

bitter

fimbriata

fringed

acerrimus

very sharp

flammula

flame

acris

acrid

flava

yellow

acuminatus, acutus

with a sharp point

floccopus

woolly foot

adiposa

fat

foenisecii

haymaking

adspersum

scattered

foetens

stinking

adusta

scorched, swarthy

fornicatus

arched/vaulted

aegeritus

poplar trees

fragrans

fragrant

aeruginosa

blue-green

fragrantissima

very fragrant

aestivus

summer

fruticosa

shrub-like

alba

white

fuliginosa

soot

alnicola

alder trees

fulva

tawny (fox coloured)

ammophila

sand loving

fusca

dark/dusky

amoenolens

pleasant smelling

fusiformis

spindle shaped

anthracina

charcoal or coal

gambosa

swollen base

apiculatus

with a small point

geotropa

erect above earth

appendiculatus

small appendage

gibba

humped/rounded

applanatum

flattened

glaucus

grey bloom

arborescens

tree-like

gracilis

graceful

argenteus

silvery

grandis

big

aspera

rough

griseum

grey

asterospora

star-shaped spores

hepatica

of liver

ater, atra, atro

black

hirsuta

hairy

atramentaria

inky

hispidus

shaggy/spiny

aurantiaca

orange

humilis

low

aurata, aurea

gilded/golden

hybridus

hybrid

auricula

ear

illota

dirty/unwashed

australis

southern

imbricata

covered in scales

azonites

not zoned

impolitus

rough/matt

azurea

azure, sky blue

incarnata

flesh coloured

badius

reddish-brown

infundibuliformis

funnel shaped

betula, betulina

birch trees

integra

whole/entire

bisporus

two-spored basidia

inversa

upside down

blanda

pleasant

involutus

in-rolled

bolaris

lumps of paint

junonius

Juno

bombycina

silky

laccata

painted

borealis

northern

lactea

milky

brevipes

short foot

laeta

bright or abundant

brumalis

winter

lateritium

colour of bricks

butyracea

buttery

leoninus

lion

caerula

deep blue

littoralis

seashore

caesius

blue-grey

livida

lead grey

caespitosus

clustered/tufted

lucida

clear/glossy

campestris

fields

luridus

lurid/unclean/dingy

canadensis

of Canada/America

luteus

yellow

candicans

shining white

maculata

spotted/blotchy

candidus

pure white

maxima

largest

caninus

dog

mellea

honey coloured

capillaris

hair

miniata

painted with red lead

carnea

flesh coloured

minor

smaller

castaneus

chestnut

mollis

soft and/or hairy

cavipes

hollow foot

montana

mountains

ceracea

waxy

mucosus

slime/mucus

cervinus

deer/fawn coloured

muscaria

fly

chlorophana

pale green

nigra

black

chrysorrheus

gold flowing

nitida

shining

cibarius

food/edible

odorata

scented

ciliata

fringed with hair

ovata

egg shaped

cinerea

ashen

paludosa

swamp/marsh/bog

cingulatum

girdled

palustris

marshes

cinnamomeus

cinnamon coloured

panaeolus

variegated

cirrhatus

curled

peronata

booted/sheathed

citrina

lemon yellow

personata

masked

claroflava

bright yellow

piperatus

peppery

clavipes

club foot

polymorpha

many shapes/forms

coccineus

scarlet

plicatilis

pleated

cochleatus

snail shell

praecox

early/premature

collinitus

covered in slime

psittacina

parrot

comatus

covered in hair

pubescens

downy

communis

common

pulchella

pretty

confluens

running together

pulverulentus

powdery

confragosa

rough/scaly

pumilis

low

cordata

heart

punctata

spotted

cornuta

horn

purpurea

purple

coronaria

crown

rosea

rosy red

cortina

curtain

ruber, rubra

red

crispa

finely waved, curled

rubescens

becoming red

cristata

crested

rufus

ruddy

croceus

saffron (yellow)

sanguinea

blood

cruentus

bloody

sardonica

very bitter

cuspidata

pointed

speciosa

showy

dealbata

whitewashed

spectabilis

spectacular

decolorans

fading

sylvaticus

woodland

decora

beautiful

tabescens

decomposing

delibutus

greasy

tomentosa

hairy

dulcis

sweet

variegata

variegated

eburneus

ivory

vellereus

woolly

echinocephalus

spiny head

viridis

green

edulis

edible

vulgaris

common

elata

tall

elegans

elegant, slender

epipterygia

small wing on top

erythropus

reddish foot

esculenta

good to eat

Citation of Mycology Authorities, Author Standard Abbreviations and Brief Biographies

The information below is a summarized version of one of the appendices in Pat O’Reilly’s latest book, ‘Fascinated by Fungi’. For full details and sample pages see our Bookshop, where you can order an author-signed copy online…

In accordance with the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN), the complete scientific name of a fungus consists of a Latinised binomial (Genus name followed by species name, using the system introduced by Carl Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum of 1753). The binomial, written in italics, is followed by the name of the authority who applied that binomial to it. The names of famous fungi pioneers who described numerous species are, by tradition, abbreviated often to just the surname – sometimes in truncated form. (see our list of standard abbreviations of authorities…)

How fungi father figures are cited in the scientific naming convention

In accordance with the ICBN, the complete scientific name of a fungus consists of a Latinised binomial (Genus name followed by species name, using the system introduced by Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum of 1753). The binomial, written in italics, is followed by the name of the authority who applied that binomial to it. The names of famous fungi pioneers who described numerous species are, by tradition, abbreviated often to just the surname – sometimes in truncated form.

Most fungi websites (including this one) and even some field guides omit the names of authorities on the basis that few amateurs have much interest in the matter of who first described a species and gave it its specific epithet. Professionals need full citations for several reasons. One species may have been named and described by two or more authorities unaware of one another’s work or not realising that the fungi were actually the same species. Even when a species was uniquely described and named by an authority in the distant past, during the intervening years its binomial name may have been altered. The full authority citation states who allocated the original species epithet and who later moved it into a different genus. (Some species have been through many such changes.) Full citations allow us to search the technical literature in order to find the original descriptions of species.

Some citations are very straightforward. For example, it was the Swedish botanist Elias Magnus Fries, in his Systema Mycologium published in 1821, who first described the Chanterelle and named it Cantharellus cibarius. There have been no changes to this name, and so it has always been simply cited as:

Cantharellus cibarius Fries

or, more commonly, using an abbreviated form of the author’s name:

Cantharellus cibarius Fr.

You won’t find Plinny or Caesar cited as naming authorities, because the ICBN rule is that (with the exception of rusts, smuts and gasteromycetes fungi, where C H Persoon’s 1801 Synopsis Methodica Fungorum takes precedence) the starting point for fungi taxonomy is Elias Fries’ Systema Mycologium of 1821. Names sanctioned (meaning that they were retained without change) by Fries in his 1821 publication still stand today, albeit with genus amendments in many instances. This applies not only to species that Fries himself named but also to species named by others, including Linneaus, before these dates. (This rule applies equally to species named by Persoon other than in categories mentioned above.)

So, for example, in 1821 the white edible agaric that we know as St George’s Mushroom was named by Fries as Agaricus gambosus. In fact this species had already been described by Linnaeus, in his Species Plantarum published in 1753, in which he called it Agaricus georgii. Fries chose not to accept Linnaeus’s epithet, and he renamed it Agaricus gambosus. Under the ICBN rules, the specific epithet given by Fries is retained today. This mushroom was later moved by Paul Kummer to the genus Tricholoma, and more recently Rolf Singer moved it to the genus Calocybe. As a result, St George’s Mushroom can be identified as either:

Agaricus gambosus Fr.
Tricholoma gambosum (Fr.) P. Kumm.
Calocybe gambosa (Fr.) Sing.

You will note that Rolf Singer’s surname has been abbreviated in the third of these citations, which is the scientific name by which this mushroom is generally known today.

Currently accepted binomial names of fungi therefore include many that were first named by authors prior to the 1821 publication by Fries or the 1801 publication by Persoon, where those names were sanctioned (retained) by Fries or Persoon. They are cited showing the original authority and the sanctioning authority. For example:

Agaricus campestris L.: Fr.

shows that Linnaeus named the Field Mushroom as Agaricus campestris and that Fries retained that name in his 1821 publication. An alternative form of writing this name, again acknowledging the original contribution by Linnaeus, is:

Agaricus campestris L. ex Fr.

In principle, therefore, there is no reason why a fungus species might not still have a name given to it by Plinny (who would have coped well with the Latin)… except that the binomial system had not been devised in Plinny’s day. That’s why there are common names but no scientific names predating those assigned by Linnaeus.

Fries with everything

You will also see the authority reference Fr.: Fr. It is used where Fries named a species prior to 1821 and retained the original name in his Systema Mycologium. Species first named by Fries in his 1821 publication and unaltered since then are written in the form:

Agaricus augustus Fr.

All of the species named by authorities subsequent to these founders of fungi taxonomy and unchanged since are written in the form:

Russula violacea Quél.

The authority referenced in this case is the great French mycologist Lucien Quélet, who first described this brittlegill mushroom in 1882.

If people investigating fungi had all worked together, perhaps that would be the end of the matter. Unfortunately, occasionally by chance different authorities applied the same binomial name to two or more different species – in which case the names are known as homonyms and the ICBN rule is that the name remains with the fungus to which it was applied earliest; once the mistake is recognised, the other species must be renamed.

Sometimes the same species was named separately by two or more people, and then the various names are known as synonyms. Many of the fungi illustrated in this book have several synonyms, and they are all valid names under the ICBN rules. In quoting binomials I have been guided by the checklists maintained by the British Mycological Society.

Standard Abbreviations of Mycological Authority (Authors) Names, and brief Biographies

The following list of mycological authorities is taken mainly from the database of authorities for plant (and fungi) names maintained by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Standard abbreviations are listed in the first column and highlighted in bold in the authors’ full names in the second column. Brief biographies of selected authorities (including, for example, Elias Magnus Fries and Christiaan Hendrik Persoon) are also available on this site and can be accessed via links in the table below:

Abbreviation

Authority (Hyperlinks are to brief biographies)

Country of Birth

Born

Died

Afzel.

Adam Afzelius

Sweden

Alb.

Johannes Baptista von Albertini

Germany

Arrhenius

Johan Petter Arrhenius

Sweden

Atk.

George Francis Atkinson

USA

Badham

Charles David Badham

Britain

Bagl.

Francesco Baglietto

Italy

Bataille

Frederic Bataille

France

Batsch

August Johann Georg Karl Batsch

Germany

Battarra

Giovanni Antonio Battarra

Italy

Beck

Günther Beck von Mannagetta und Lerchenau

Austria

Berk.

Miles Joseph Berkeley

Britain

Bertill.

Louis-Adolphe Bertillon

France

Bigeard

René Bigeard (1840 – 1917)

France

A. Blytt

Axel Gudbrand Blytt

Norway

Bolton

James Bolton

Britain

Bondarzew

Appolonaris Semyonovich Bondartsev

Russia

Bonord.

Hermann Friedrich Bonorden

Germany

Boud.

Jean Louis Emile Boudier

France

Bourdot

Hubert Bourdot

France

Bref.

Julius Oscar Brefeld

Germany

Bres.

Giacopo Bresadola

Italy

F Brig.

Francesco Briganti

Italy

V Brig.

Vincenzo Briganti

Italy

Britzelm.

Max Britzelmayr

Germany

Brond.

Louis de Brondeau

France

Broome

Christopher Edmund Broome

Britain

Buller

Arthur Henry Reginald Buller

Canada

Bull.

Jean Baptiste Francois Bulliard

France

Burlingham

Gertrude Simmons Burlingham

USA

Burt

Edward Angus Burt

USA

Coker

William Chambers Coker

USA

Cooke

Mordecai Cubitt Cooke

Britain

G. Cunn.

Gordon Herriot Cunningham

New Zealand

Curtis

Moses Ashley Curtis

New Zealand

De C.

Augustin Pyramus De Candolle

Switzerland

De Not.

Giuseppe De Notaris

Italy

Dennis

Richard William George Dennis

Britain

Desm.

John Baptiste Henri Joseph Desmazieres

France

Desv.

Nicaise Auguste Desvaux

France

Dicks.

James J. Dickson

Scotland

Dill.

Johann Jacob Dillenius

Germany

Ditmar

Fr. L P Ditmar

Germany

Donk

Marinus Anton Donk

Netherlands

Durieu

Michel Charles Durieu de Maisonneuve

France

Earle

Franklin Sumner Earle

USA

Ehrh.

Jakob Friedrich Ehrhart

Germany

Ellis

Job Bicknell Ellis

USA

Fayod

Victor Fayod

Switzerland

Fr.

Elias Magnus Fries

Swedish

Fuckel

Karl Wilhelm Gottlieb Leopold Fuckel

German

Galzin

Amédée Galzin

France

Genev.

Leon Gaston Genevier

France

Gillet

Claude-Casimir Gillet

France

E.-J. Gilbert

Édouard-Jean Gilbert

France

Gilb.

Robert Lee Gilbertson

USA

Gray

Samuel Frederick Gray

Britain

Grev.

Robert Kaye Greville

Britain

Gray

Samuel Frederick Gray

Britain

Grove

William Bywater Grove

Britain

J W Groves

James Walton Groves

Canada

Guill.

Henri Guillemin

France

18??

19??

Harmaja

Harri Harmaja

Finland

Harkn.

Harvey Wilson Harkness

USA

Henn.

Paul Christoph Hennings

Germany

Herink

Josef Herink

Czech Republic

Hesler

Lexemuel Ray Hesler

USA

Hoffm.

George Franz Hoffmann

Germany

Hohenbühel

Ludwig Samuel Joseph David Alexander von Hohenbühel Heufler

Austria

Höhn.

Franz Xaver Rudolf von Höhnel

Austria

Holmsk.

Theodor Holmskjold

Denmark

Hooker.

Sir William Jackson Hooker

Britain

Huds.

William Hudson

British

Imbach

Emil J Imbach

Germany

Jacq.

Nicolaus Joseph von Jacquin

Netherlands

Joss.

Marcel Josserand

France

Jungh.

Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn

Germany

Kalchbr.

Karoly Kalchbrenner

Hungary

Kallenb.

Franz Joseph Kallenbach

Germany

Karsten

Gustav Karl Wilhelm Hermann Karsten

Germany

P. Karst.

Petter Adolf Karsten

Finland

Kauffmann

Calvin Henry Kauffmann

USA

Kickx

Jean Jacques Kickx

Belgium

Klotzsch

Johann Friedrich Klotzsch

Germany

Kotl.

František Kotlaba

Chech Republic

Konrad

Paul Konrad

France

Krombh.

Julius Vincenz von Krombholz

Czech Republic

Kühner

Robert Kühner

Germany

Kummer

Paul Kummer

Germany

Kuntze

(Carl Ernst) Otto Kuntze

Germany

Lambotte

Jean Baptiste Emil Lambotte

Belgium

J. E. Lange

Jakob Emanuel Lange

Denmark

Lasch

Wilhelm Gottfried Lasch

Germany

Lenz

Harald Othmar Lenz

Germany

Letellier

Jean Baptiste Louis Letellier

France

Lév.

Joseph-Henri Léveillé

France

Leysser

Friedrich Wilhelm von Leysser

Germany

Link

Johann Heinrich Friedrich Link

Germany

L.

Karl von Linné (Carl Linnaeus)

Sweden

Lloyd

Curtis Gates Lloyd

USA

Locq.

Marcel Locquin

France

Maire

René Charles Joseph Ernest Maire

France

C. Martin

Charles-Édouard Martin

France

Massee

George Edward Massee

Britain

Maaubl.

André Maublanc

France

Melzer

Václav Melzer

Czechoslavakia

P Micheli

Pier Antonio Micheli

Italian

O. K. Mill

Orson K Miller Jr.

USA

F. H. Møller

Frits Hansen Møller

Denmark

Mont.

Jean Pierre Francois Camille Montagne

France

J Moravec

Jiří Moravec

Czech Republic

Morgan

Andrew Price Morgan

USA

M.M. Moser

Meinhard Michael Moser ( – 2002)

Austria

Murrill

William Alphonso Murrill

USA

Nees

Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck

Germany

Nobles

Mildred Katherine Nobles

Canada

Noordel.

Machiel Noordeloos

Netherlands

Opat.

Wilhelm Opatowski

German

P D Orton

Peter Darbishire Orton

Britain

Pass.

Giovanni Passerini

Italy

Pat.

Narcisse Theophile Patouillard

France

Paulet

Jean Jacques Paulet

France

Peck

Charles Horton Peck

USA

Pers.

Christiaan Hendrik Persoon

Netherlands

Petr.

Franz Petrak

Austria

Pilát

Albert Pilát

Czech Republic

Pouzar

Zdeněk Pouzar

Czech Republic

Quél.

Lucien Quélet

France

Rabenh.

Gottlob Ludwig Rabenhorst

Germany

Ramsb.

John Ramsbottom

Britain

Ravenel

Henry William Ravenel

USA

Rea

Carleton Rea

Britain

D.A. Reid

Derrek Agutter Reid

Britain

Relhan

Richard Relhan

Britain

Retz.

Anders Jahan Retzius

Sweden

Ricken

Adalbert Ricken

Germany

Richon

Charles Édouard Richon

France

Rolland

Léon Louis Rolland

France

Rostk.

Friedrich Wilhelm Gottfried Theophil Rostkovius

German

Romagn.

Henri Charles Louis Romagnesi

France

Roussel

Henri François Anne de Roussel

France

Roze

Ernest Roze

France

Ryvarden

Leif Randulff Ryvarden

Norway

Sacc.

Pier Andrea Saccardo

Italy

Schaeff.

Jacob Christian Schaeffer

Germany

Jul. Schäff.

Julius Schäffer

Germany

Schröt.

Joseph Schröter

Germany

Schumach.

Heinrich Christian Friedrich Schumacher

Denmark

Schwein.

Lewis David von Schweinitz

USA

Scop.

Joannes Antonius Scopoli

Italy

Secr.

Louis Secretan

Switzerland

Sing.

Rolf Singer

Germany

A H Smith

Alexander Hanchett Smith

USA

Sommerf.

Soren Christian Sommerfelt

Norway

Sowerby

James Sowerby

Britain

Šutara

Josef Šutara

Chechoslovakia

Thax.

Roland Thaxter

USA

Tiegh.

Phillippe Édouard Léon van Tieghem

France

Tul.

Louis Rene Tulasne

France

Underw.

Lucien Marcus Underwood

USA

Velen.

Josef Velenovský

Czech Republic

A Venturi

Antonio Venturi

Italy

Vitadd.

Carlo Vittadini

Italian

Viv.

Domenico Viviani

Italian

Wall.

Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Wallroth

Germany

Weigel

Christian Ehrenfried Weigel

Germany

Weinm.

Johann Anton Weinmann

Germany

Willd.

Carl Ludwig von Willdenow

Germany

With.

William Withering

Britain

Wulfen

Franz Xavier von Wulfen

Austria

If you have found this information helpful, we are sure you would also find our book Fascinated by Fungi by Pat O’Reilly very useful. Author-signed hardback copies at a special discount price are available here…

Other nature books from First Nature…

Common Mulch Fungus: Does Mulch Cause Fungus And Can It Be Treated

Most gardeners take advantage of organic mulch, such as bark chips, leaf mulch or compost, which is attractive in the landscape, healthy for growing plants, and beneficial to the soil. But sometimes organic mulch and fungus go hand in hand. In fact, various fungi are natural components of this rich, organic environment.

Does Mulch Cause Fungus?

Mulch doesn’t directly cause fungus, but when certain conditions are present, mulch and fungus work together in a symbiotic relationship; fungi are living organisms that develop as part of the natural decomposition process.

Many types of fungi help break down woody tissues and other types survive by consuming bacteria in the mulch. Either way, fungus is beneficial so no mulch fungus treatment is necessary in most cases. As the fungi speeds decomposition, the decomposed mulch improves soil fertility by making nutrients more available to other plants. Decomposed mulch also increases the soil’s water retention capabilities.

Types of Fungus in Mulch

Both molds and fungus are a normal part of the decomposition process. Here is some of the most common mulch fungus seen in the landscape:

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a common, familiar type of fungus. You may see mushrooms in a variety of colors and in sizes ranging from tiny puffballs measuring less than an inch to varieties that attain heights of several inches. Stinkhorns are commonly seen in mulch.

Some people think mushrooms are a nuisance, but they aren’t harmful in most regards. However, while some mushrooms are safe to eat, many are highly toxic – even deadly. If this is a concern, or if you have curious children or pets, rake or mow the mushrooms and dispose of them safely.

Slime Mold

Slime molds, also known as “dog vomit,” tend to be nuisances, but their growth is usually confined to small areas in damp mulch or old, rotting logs. Slime mold is easily recognized by its bright pink, orange or yellow color.

As mulch fungus, treatment of slime mold involves raking the surface of the mulch frequently to prevent growth. You can also remove the slimy substance with a rake, then dispose of it away from your yard. Otherwise, let the mold complete its natural lifespan and it will dry out, turn brown and become a powdery, white mass that is easily blasted with a garden hose.

Bird’s Nest Fungus

Bird’s nest fungi looks exactly like their name suggests -tiny bird nests complete with eggs in the center. Each “nest” measures up to ¼ inch in diameter, growing in small clumps usually limited to a few inches. This interesting little fungus is harmless and nontoxic.

Artillery Fungus

Artillery fungus resembles a tiny cup with one black egg in the center. Artillery fungus is named for its sticky spores that burst and can be windblown considerable heights and distances.

Although this fungus grows in mulch, it is also attracted to light-colored surfaces, including cars or houses. The spores, which resemble specks of tar, can be difficult to remove. Other than its annoying, unsightly qualities, it isn’t harmful to plants, pets or people.

There is no known cure for artillery fungus. If this fungus is a problem in your area, avoid using wood mulch adjacent to buildings. If mulch is already in place, rake it often to keep it dry and aerated. Large chunks of bark are less inviting than shredded mulch or small pieces.

Gray mold in the flower garden

How to manage gray mold

Provide good air circulation

  • Gray mold can show up anytime wet weather occurs during the growing season.
  • Space your plants properly to encourage good air circulation between plants.
  • Split or thin overgrown perennials.
  • Keep your plants dry.
  • Avoid overhead watering.
  • Use drip irrigation or a soaker hose.
  • Don’t water late in the day. Give your plants time to dry off after watering them.

Take care not to wound plants

  • Infections usually begin on weak, dying or wounded plant tissue.
  • Handle plants carefully when transplanting and pruning.
    • Gray mold usually attacks wounded plants, so avoid harming your plants.
    • Prune plants later in the day when plants they are dry.

Keep your garden clean

  • Remove infected plants or plant parts in a paper bag. Bury or compost all infected plant parts.
  • Compost stems, leaves, and flowers that are removed for deadheading and other garden maintenance.
  • Many moths, butterflies, bumble bees and other wildlife rely on leaf litter and plant debris for winter protection.
    • Allow fallen leaves and other plant debris from healthy plants to remain in the garden over winter.
    • Remove and compost leaves, stems, flowers and plants that have been infected with gray mold or other fungal diseases.

Fungicides

  • Fungicides are not necessary to control gray mold in the flower garden.
  • Cultural control practices will reduce gray mold to an acceptable level.
  • Many flowering plants will recover from gray mold once dry conditions return.

Fact Sheets And Publications

Artillery Fungus and Other Things That Grow in Mulch

Introduction

Landscape mulch usually consists of hardwood shreds or bark chips, providing cover to hold moisture and add a finished look. Wood in mulch also provides a food source for fungi that are natural decomposers, breaking down plant material and utilizing organic matter. Without fungi, dead leaves, twigs and branches would clutter forests and landscapes. We see fungal fruiting bodies after growth of threadlike mycelium in soil and mulch. The most recognizable of these spore producing bodies are mushrooms, but sometimes they produce other structures, such as:

Slime Molds

A common surface mold is slime mold (ex. Physarum sp.) that will rapidly grow over the surface of mulched areas, characterized by a yellow, orange, or white, soft gooey mass. They are harmless, and can be raked away. Undisturbed, they will produce spores and then dry up, but may grow again after rain events.

Stinkhorns

Stinkhorns (ex. Mutinus sp.) are common, characterized by an upright tube like structure that may reach 6 to 7 inches in height overnight. Stinkhorns have a slimy, smelly cap on which spores are produced. The smell attracts insects to the cap where they pick up spores and carry them to new locations. Stinkhorns are harmless and may be broken up by raking lightly over mulch.

Bird’s Nest Fungi

Bird’s nest fungi (ex. Cyathus sp.) produce small (1/4 inch or smaller) cup-shaped fruiting bodies on top of mulch, usually in clusters. Cups have very small round spore bodies (peridioles) in the bottom, which look like miniature eggs in a bird nest. Spore bodies (eggs) are splashed out of cups during rains, or moved around by animals or man, spreading spores of the fungus. Bird’s nest fungi are harmless, and raking prevents growth and movement of spores.

Artillery Fungus

The artillery fungus, Sphaerobolus spp. may become problematic in mulch, due to the production and release of spores. This fungus produces very small, inconspicuous cup shaped fruiting bodies (about 1/10 of an inch) that contain a dark round spore body (peridiole). Accumulation of water and nutrients in the fruiting body eventually leads to a pressure release of the spore which is shot toward any light source up to a distance of several feet. Spores land on light colored siding, building foundations, or cars. Spots can be very unsightly and spore bodies have a sticky substance on them which can make removal extremely difficult. Soap and water with a scrub brush can be effective before material dries. Growth of artillery fungus is favored by hardwoods in mulch, excessive rainfall, or irrigation of foundation plantings.

Artillery fungus is problematic on north sides of buildings where shade maintains moist conditions. Use of mulch derived from dead and diseased trees should be avoided. Use of bark mulch or pine bark nuggets rather than hardwood provides a less favorable substrate. Addition of fresh mulch yearly can suppress fungi, but plantings should not be mulched too deep. Removal or raking of infested mulch to disturb growth of fungi may help. Research (D. Davis, PSU) indicates fresh mushroom compost blended with landscape mulch, at the rate of ≥40%, can be effective in reducing or suppressing artillery fungus, a good strategy in sites that have had artillery fungus. Addition of fresh mushroom compost adds organic matter, a rich dark color, and beneficial microbes that may compete with the artillery fungus.

Nancy Gregory, April 9, 2019

Disclaimer: Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by University of Delaware Cooperative Extension or bias against those not mentioned

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