Invasion of ‘alien’ fungi in woods
From ‘alien’ fungi and zombie bees to frightening-looking foods, the Royal Horticultural Society is aware of some more unusual finds you may come across if you’re foraging in gardens and woods this autumn. Here’s what to look out for...
1. SWEETCORN SMUT
Sweetcorn will have a rude awakening if smut invades. Smuts are fungal diseases that can affect leaves, stems, flowers and sometimes storage organs, such as bulbs and corms. In the case of sweetcorn, affected plants are often stunted and feature grey and swollen kernels that burst to release huge numbers of black spores. In most cases affected plants should be de- stroyed and the soil rested from that plant type for several years.
2. WEIRD PODS
Dramatic pods resembling exotic-looking cones that open to reveal blood-red berries are actually sheltering magnolia seeds. Bursting months after the lovely bowl-shaped white, pink, red, purple or yellow flowers, gardeners can be startled to find these sinister ‘growths’ on their beloved magnolia trees and bushes at leaf fall.
3. EARTHSTARS (GEASTRUM TRIPLEX)
Kicking up leaves this autumn? You might find these strange flower-like fungi which grow on dead organic matter, and are often found in the leaf litter beneath conifers and deciduous trees. They emerge during autumn when their bulbous outer casing folds out like the petals of a flower, creating a star effect.