Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Amy Stone

Ugly mold not as bad as it looks

After having a huge load of mulch spread all around the garden, it is really shocking to stumble upon something that looks like someone got sick behind your bushes. It is actually a mold hiding in your mulch.

According to Michigan State University, it is called Fulgio septica, but most gardeners call it "dog vomit fungus."

That's what Darla McMannis found in the garden around her Oregon condo. "When it appears, it is yellow and white and looks like foam," she says. "As it ages, it becomes rather solid and dark. If it appears near the walls of the condo, it climbs up the wall and is difficult to remove."

All signs of vomit fungus.

But it isn't a fungus at all. It is related to mushrooms in that it is part of the mold family. Fulgio septica can grow in grass and in mulch, anywhere it can find moisture. It grows easily during warm, wet spells. Iowa State University scientists say it really likes to creep across the ground and climb onto walls and even other plants.

It appears almost overnight after a hard rain, first as tiny yellow blotches that resemble bright yellow scrambled eggs. Sometimes these fruiting bodies turn orange and look like the disgusting thing that gives them their name. Please don't make me describe it!

After a couple of days, it continues to grow and forms a hard crust. It can spread during the spore stage of its life. It turns darker brown and the tiny spores are under the crusty surface. If you break the surface, the spores will be airborne and can be carried away by raindrops, little garden critters, and even on the bottom of your shoes. If it is left alone, it will just break apart and crumble back into your mulch.

Scientists say the decaying mulch is a great spot for the slime mold to grow because it has a lot of organic debris on which to live. If it is growing on turf, it is feeding on the thatch right at the base of the turf blades.

If the mold gets too dry, it just moves to a more moist environment to stay alive.

Slime molds like this one just have to run their course. Luckily for Darla and others who find it in their mulch, it doesn't cause any long-lasting problems for plants. It just looks bad.

Grab your shovel and scoop it out once it turns hard. That's what Darla's husband does. "When it appears in the bed area, my husband is able to dig it out and dispose of it," she says.

If it really bothers you, rake your mulch to get some air circulating through it. You might even have to remove sections of it to get rid of the mold within it. A fungicide will also help keep it from growing, but you will need to reapply it after every rainy day.

And here's the best news of all: Scientists say the tiny spores stay dormant in the soil for years just waiting for more warm, wet weather. Great.

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