Mother Nature has hit our gardens with a double whammy: Rain and high humidity. Did I say rain?
What that means? BOLO for a fungus among us.
Some of us find fungus on our mulch. Artillery, bird’s nest and slime fungus are common. Just so you are in the know: Slime fungus is sometimes called dog vomit fungus, which is an accurate description of what it looks like. Bird’s nest fungus looks like tiny dishes filled with eggs.
Artillery fungus is aptly named, too. It shoots spores up to 20 feet, which can land on hard surfaces, such as siding, cars and sidewalks. This one can be hard to clean from those surfaces.
Another one that emerges in lawns, garden beds or mulch is the eye-popping stinkhorn fungus, which looks like a horn or well, a penis, causing alarm among the pearl clutchers. Stinkhorn is a good name for this one, too, because it stinks.
Not to worry
Usually nothing has to be done with these fungi. Considered nuisance fungi, they will not damage garden plants. These fungi are feeding on decaying organic matter, such as leaves and mulch, but not plants, said Steve Mayer, horticulture educator in the Purdue-Marion County Extension Office.
If desired, you can break them up with a golf club or other device. Spores may fly, but again, they are not harmful to plants. Or you can scoop it off and toss in the trash. Putting it in the compost pile is not recommended. If you do nothing, the fungus will eventually disappear.
Other fungi attack plants’ leaves and the lawn.
The most common is powdery mildew. That is a broad term for different fungi that cause a white or gray powdery coating on leaves. Lilac, bee balm (Monarda spp.) and squash plants are susceptible to this type of fungus. Other fungi disease may cause leaf spots, such as on dogwoods and tomatoes.
These fungi are more of an aesthetic issue rather than harmful to plants. Some leaves can be picked off, but if the disease is not bad, allow the leaves to stay on the plant. Usually the powdery mildew is not thick enough on the leaves to block sunlight, which is needed for photosynthesis, Mayer said. Leaves with spots may dry and fall off, but usually a second set grows.
Fungicides may help with plant fungus disease. Fungicides are preventative but not curative. If you have a plant that gets powdery mildew or spotted leaves, applying a fungicide early in the season may be of help. Always read and follow the label direction. Or, look for disease resistant varieties.
More problematic are lawns suffering with dollar spot and other fungus disease, Mayer said. Lawns also may have a washed out appearance with a yellow cast, which could be a nitrogen deficiency brought on by the rain.
For lawn-specific fungi and what to do, download Purdue’s “Turfgrass Disease Profiles.”