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Dallas Morning News - May 31, 2018


Oh no! The dog threw up in the mulch. You may have seen this strange looking mass in landscape beds, in the vegetable garden or even around trees. It could be white, yellow, tan or most any color – even bright red. Multi-colored blobs of this stuff are also common. This visitor is a fungus called slime mold.

If shelf-looking or ear-looking mushrooms are growing out of tree trunks, there may be a serious problem indicated by these fungi and we can address that another time, but the “throw up” looking stuff is not a problem, especially for larger plants.

Slime mold is growing and feeding on dead and decaying organic matter and generally doesn’t hurt anything, is not dangerous to pets and usually needs no treatment. The only place I have ever seen this fungus hurt plants is by growing over the top of small plants and smothering them. When simply growing on the mulch (the most common place to see it) there’s no danger of plant injury. Its name – slime mold – sounds scary but it is just a saprophytic fungus helping break down organic matter, especially in moist environments. It can even be seen growing on hard surfaces that are staying moist. It literally can be seen in just about any color. Some of the slime molds in turfgrasses look like cigarette ashes and will leave black stains on your shoes. This grass form of the fungus can also be seen in yellow and other colors.

If you want this interesting looking visitor gone, any of the organic fungicides will kill it. Slime mold, as well as any mushrooms or toadstools, can be knocked out with baking soda, potassium bicarbonate, cornmeal, cornmeal tea, hydrogen peroxide or commercial products like BioSafe Disease Control. Physical disturbance such as mowing the grass or scratching the slime mold in beds is also effective. Sulfur is sometimes recommended to treat this growth, but that would be a waste of money and too much sulfur can damage the soil and plants. Spraying a toxic chemical fungicide would be outright stupid.

All these growths are mostly prevalent when there is more than enough water and organic matter – so, stop watering so much!

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