Fungus in Mulch
I've heard it described many ways …
"An ooze coming from my mulch."
"Something that looks like wet scrambled eggs."
"I think my cat regurgitated his breakfast in my garden."
"I swear it's as if a dog has thrown up in my mulch."
And it is legally defined as …
Scrambled Egg Slime Mold
Or, just plain slime mold.
you deal with shredded hardwood mulch in a landscape, sooner or later you're
going to have an incidence of slime mold. It normally starts as a wet-yellow
or wet-orange blob on the top of a mulched bed. Then, in most cases, it
hardens and turns tan and finally becomes a brownish pile of dust.
While the wet stage only lasts 24-36 hours, the hardened, brown-spore
stage can last up to a month.
1973, yellow, pulsating blobs of "scrambled egg" slime plasmodia appeared in
Dallas and caused a near panic. Some residents there thought these "blobs"
were either aliens from outer space or mutant bacteria preparing to take
over the earth! Typical Dallasites!
Although it may seem odd to some, "scrambled egg"
slime mold and a silimar type are fried and eaten by natives of Veracruz,
Mexico. They're called "caca de luna" by the locals. I'm not making this
the Austin area, it is almost always associated with shredded hardwood
mulches. It gets energy from organic matter below the soil line rather than
from the sun, like green plants. If a fungus feeds on living organic matter,
it is called parasitic. If it feeds on non-living organic matter, it is
called saprophytic (pronounced: sah-pro-fit'-ik).
Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
I think it's a good thing, because it shows high levels of organic
matter trying to do something. Can you control it, or do you even need
to control it?
You can control it simply by flipping it over before it gets to the
hardened stage. Anyone who has tried to flip the hardened stage with its
countless brown spores knows what an effort in futility that can be. But if
you catch it in that oozy, wet stage, you can flip it over and soak the area
with a fungicide like Consan. Once it's dried and hard, forget about
spraying it with anything.
Another saprophytic fungus with which we are all
very familiar in our lawns is slime mold.
shows up as a little area of grass that looks as if someone coated the
blades with oil and then sprinkled cigarette ashes or salt and pepper on the
blades. Again, Consan brushed on the blades in that particular area will
help to suppress the mold. But, again, you don't have to do anything if you
don't want, because it will go away on its own.
[Top two photos courtesy
of Dr. George Hudler, Cornell University.]