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|What's that blob in my mulch?
I've heard it described many ways…
"An ooze coming from my mulch"
"Something that looks like wet scrambled eggs"
"I think my cat regurgitated his breakfast in my garden"
"I swear it's as if a dog has thrown up in my mulch."
And it is legally defined as…
Scrambled Egg Slime Mold
Or just plain Slime Mold
For anyone who has dealt with shredded hard wood mulches in a landscape, sooner or later you're going to have an incidence of this Slime Mold. It normally starts, as noted by the earliest description as a wet-yellow or wet-orangey looking blob on the top of a mulched bed. In most cases, it begins to harden after that stage to where the top is sort of tan-like but hard. And then it becomes a brownish pile of dust. While the wet stage only lasts for 24-36 hours, the hardened/brown spore stage can last for up to a month.
In 1973, an odd extensive patch of yellow pulsating "blobs" of Scrambled-egg slime plasmodia appeared in Dallas, Texas. These blobs caused a near panic among the people living there. Some of the residents there thought these "blobs" were either aliens form outer space or mutant bacteria preparing to take over the earth! Typical Dallas-ites!!!
Although it may seem odd to some people, Scrambled-egg slime mold and another slime molds are fried and eaten by some of the native people living in Veracruz, Mexico. These edible slime molds are giving the name caca de luna by the locals living there. I'm not making this up!!!
Here it is almost always associated with Shredded Hard Wood mulches and the energy it gets from organic matter below the soil line rather than from the sun like green plants - yes, this is a living organism. If a fungus feeds on living organic matter it is called parasitic. If it feeds on non-living organic matter it is called saprophytic (pronounced: sah - pro- fit - ik).
So, having said all that, is it a good thing or a bad thing? I think it's a good thing, because it does show high levels of organic matter trying to do something. Can you control it, or do you need to control it? You can control it simply by flipping it over before it gets to the hardened stage. Anyone who has tried to flip the hardened stage with its countless brown spores knows what an effort in futility that can be. But if you catch it in that oozy, wet stage you can flip it over and you can soak the area with a fungicide like Consan. Once it's dried and hard, forget about spraying anything on there.
There's another Saprophytic Fungus we are all very familiar with in our lawns.
This has always been known as Slime Mold. This is where you have a little area of the grass that looks as if someone coated the blades with oil and then sprinkled cigarette ashes/or salt and pepper on the blades. Again, Consan brushed on the blades in that particular area will help to suppress the Slime Mold, but again, you don't have to do anything if you want, because it will go away on its own.
Until next issue, here's to
Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard
exclusively weekend mornings from 8 to noon
on Talkradio 950 KPRC.
[Top two photos courtesy of Dr. George Hudler, Cornell University.]
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