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Fungus Among Us!

During this time of year where we have periods of daily rain showers and high humidity, there are mushrooms popping up every where. Mushrooms are fascinating and completely harmless if left alone.

This is Amanita jacksonii. One that is reported to be edible. DO NOT eat mushrooms unless you are an expert and can correctly identify the species.

Mushrooms are the fruiting, reproductive part of a soil borne fungus. The “seeds” of this fungus are produced by the mushrooms and are millions of microscopic spores released into the environment. Mushrooms are beneficial to the local ecosystems and aid in breaking down dead organic materials to provide nutrients for other plants.

Many people are concerned that mushrooms are harming their trees and landscapes, but for the majority of the fruiting bodies, that is not the case. Mushrooms called conks are a sign that your tree is dead or severely stressed. It is then recommended that you have a certified arborist assess the health of your tree. Find a certified arborist here. These mushrooms grow on the tree trunk itself. If you have mushrooms growing around the tree on the ground, this is completely normal and they help break down the leaves and other organic matter.

Wood-rotting organisms like these conks often appear on trees after a long period of cool, wet weather.
Conks like these attached to the trees can slowly nibble away at trunks and exposed roots.

Lichen is another organism that poses little threat to trees. This is a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an algae and they simply live on the surface of the bark. As plants are stressed and begin to decline, the reduced canopy allows sunlight to enter and support photosynthesis for the algae. The presence of lichens are often an indicator of poor plant health but it is never the cause.

Lichens growing on tree trunk exterior
Lichen is never the cause of plant stress, but can be a good indicator of other stressors.

It is nearly impossible to remove all fungus from your landscape and there is no chemical that will kill them all. You can remove the favorable conditions for fungal growths in your areas. Remove wood and leaf piles, buried wood and dead roots. Be sure to de-thatch and aerate the lawn and don’t mulch more than 2 inches thick.

One of the main reasons to remove mushrooms from your yard are pets and children. Never eat an unidentified mushroom as they can be deadly. Georgia is home to several species of mushrooms that could cause death if only a single mushroom is eaten. Two such deadly species are the Destroying Angel, Amanita virosa, and the Autumn Skullcap, Galerina autumnalis.

destroying angel, Amanita virosa (Agaricales: Amanitaceae) - 5042071
This is the Destroying Angel, which it extremely deadly.

Mushrooms usually emerge when rain follows extended dry periods. Dry weather stresses the fungi, and when water becomes available, it triggers the reproductive mechanism and mushrooms pop up. To keep the mushrooms from popping up, irrigate your lawn if it gets too dry. The moisture will keep the fungus under ground and will not produce the mushrooms.

To rid your lawn of mushrooms, pull them up, kick them over or run over them with the lawn mower. This will keep them from releasing the spores that spread the fungi. Aerate your lawn to prevent further damage to your turfgrass.

For more information or if you have questions contact the Newton Extension office at 770-784-2010 or email Ashley Best at .