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Strange and Wonderful Fungi

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Strange and Wonderful Fungi

In our gardening environment molds, mildews, rusts, smuts, mushrooms and puffballs are all contributors to some our more frequently encountered Common Garden Pests and Problems.

All of these are caused by fungi, and the presence of two types of them is very evident in our landscapes and lawns this fall.

Powdery mildew is one of those, and it manifests itself as a light gray or whitish powder on the surface of the leaf. It is most commonly seen on lilacs (Syringa) in the fall of the year, but can be found on other plants as well such as the peony (Paeonia) in the picture.

Powdery mildew is usually considered more unsightly than harmful, and death of the plant is rare. The linked Integrated Pest Management (IPM) page will tell you more about the disease and some recommended strategies to avoid future problems from this disease.

Removing and destroying infected leaves and stems of this plant will go a long way in reducing the inoculation of next year’s plant. Since most fungicides are preventive rather than curative, their best use would be prior to the first symptoms of the disease in upcoming years.  

The late summer/ early fall rains have also brought about the emergence of a number of mushrooms in Saint Louis area lawns. The fruiting bodies of these fungi are living off decaying organic matter in the soil.

Lawn mushrooms are often randomly scattered throughout the lawn area. Those that develop in a ring in the lawn are classified as fairy ring. The linked IPM sheet will give you more detailed information on the life cycle of the fungi that cause mushrooms in lawns and some recommended management control strategies.

Fairy rings often appear as dark green circular patches in the lawn. Fairy ring fungi break down organic matter in the soil and release nitrogen in the process which causes the dark green grass.  The mushrooms that appear in rainy weather are the fruiting bodies of the fungi.

An article by Travis Cleveland in the Home, Yard & Garden Newsletter from the University of Illinois, tells of the folklore surrounding the fairy ring name. It also details the three types of Fairy Rings on Turf and offers management practices for each type.

Since many poisonous mushrooms can look similar to edible ones, they should never be collected or consumed unless you are an expert in their identification. Speaking of identifying edible mushrooms, the Missouri Mycological Society has a listing of individuals who can help in identification and also lists an upcoming class on 10 Edible Mushrooms of Missouri. Follow the link for more information.

If you’re like most, you’ll probably get your favorite edible mushroom from a local supermarket. The next time you purchase some, look at the package and see if they don’t come from a mushroom farm or distributor in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

Here’s a “fun fact” about Kennett Square, the “Mushroom Capital of the World”.  Reportedly, a carnation grower who wanted to make use of the wasted space under his greenhouse benches started experimenting with growing mushrooms under them. Today, the mushroom growers of this southeastern Pennsylvania borough produce over 60% of the edible fungi consumed in the United States.

Enjoy the nice fall weather and all the good fungi!

Posted in: Fall | Tags: fungi , mushrooms , lawns , powdery mildew | Comments (0) | View Count: (899)
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