In­va­sion of ‘alien’ fungi in woods

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING AND PETS -

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.

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