Warns gardeners about artillery fungus in mulch

To the editor:

Since spring is finally here and I see people cleaning out and mulching their flower beds I feel compelled to remind them of the perils of artillery fungus. Are you aware that there is a chance, however slight, that your mulch is full of artillery spores? These spores are aptly named as they can shoot a fungus up to 20 feet.

Upon research I found it originates in wood mulch. Wet rotting mulch breeds small mushrooms that shoot off spores. Much of the mulch used today is recycled wood. In the past most mulch was bark. In addition, finely shredded mulches used today probably hold more moisture than the old coarsely ground mulches.

It commonly appears on dead branches, dead trees, rotting wood and so on. So if this infested material is used, the fungus may already be in the mulch when you purchase it.

If you want to mulch, it is advisable to use mushroom mulch, pine bark nuggets, or cypress chips. The siding on my house is covered with thousands of brown spots that cannot be removed. The siding will have to be replaced because of the damage caused by the artillery spores, and all the infected mulch will have to be disposed of. Even if one spore is missed it will continue to grow.

This has been a nightmare! Take the time to question the supplier about their product before you find yourself in my shoes. Reputable suppliers who sell mulch should make their customers aware of this possibility. For more information about the artillery fungus problem, contact the Penn State Plant Pathology and Horticulture Department.

Tammy Wagner