Smelly fungus is great for soil
TRACY HODGECentral Florida homeowners may notice strange fungal growths popping up in their yards and gardens this winter.
Published: November 21, 2012
Published: November 21, 2012
The onset of cool, moist weather often brings out stinkhorn fungi in our growing area. While these fungal growths are not harmful, they can become a nuisance when they sprout up all around your yard. Stinkhorn fungi reproduces during the cool, wet winter weather and, unfortunately, there may be no way to avoid these stinky growths.
While many of us find mushrooms and other strange things growing in our yards all year long, stinkhorn fungi is quite distinctive due to the foul odor they exude. All stinkhorn fungi have this odor, which many people relate as the smell of rotting meat or feces.
This distinctive odor actually attracts ants and other insects that pick up the fungal spores and carry them to other areas to grow, which is one way this fungus reproduces and spreads.
Stinkhorn fungus appears as white or colored egg-shaped fungi growing in mulch and flower beds. These fruiting bodies can manifest themselves in a variety of colors, but most in Florida are pink, white or orange. Stinkhorn fungus grows in tall stalks with brown or black fungal spores visible on the tip of the growth.
Although stinkhorn fungi smell disgusting, they are actually beneficial to our landscape. These fungal shapes work to break down organic matter, which improves the quality of our sandy Florida soil. This type of fungi also works to break down mulch, which can provide a variety of nutrients for our plants.
Even though stinkhorn fungi are not harmful to plants or lawn grass, you may not enjoy their presence. Typically, these types of fungal growths only occur once or twice each year, especially in cool, damp weather.
Since we have had a rainy year, stinkhorn fungi may be more abundant this winter. This type of fungus also can be introduced to your landscape through mulch, as well. There are several ways you can keep this fungus out of your yard and garden this winter.
To keep stinkhorn fungi at bay, be sure to remove all decaying organic matter such as sawdust, dead roots, stumps and hardwood mulch from your yard. If this fungus appears and is a serious problem, consider using a vegetative groundcover instead of traditional mulch near your home and flower beds.
Liriope, perennial peanut and Jessamine are all good groundcovers that may help deter the development of this fungus. You can also remove stinkhorn fungi while it is in early "egg" stages by hand-picking it from your yard and throwing it away in the garbage. Be sure to wear gloves to avoid getting the stinky spores on your hands.
Remove the soil where you dug up the stinkhorn fungus, as it may contain spores that will promote the growth of more fungi. Once you have dug up the soil, place it in a bag and seal it tightly. Avoid watering your lawn during wet periods, as this may promote fungal growth.
There are no chemical products made for the control of stinkhorn fungi in the home landscape, so you may just have to tolerate their presence this winter. Avoid using bleach or other garden products that can contaminate soil and cause harm to animals and beneficial insects.
While stinkhorn fungi are smelly and not desired in any landscape, it may be worth tolerating them for the health and welfare of our garden and plants. These types of fungi will definitely work to improve the quality of our Florida soil and our garden plants, although you may need to close your windows when this fungus is present.