There’s fungus among us | News, Sports, Jobs – Minot Daily News

Oct 10, 2023

The cool moist weather that comes with fall has brought along a “fun-guy,” also known as mushrooms. There are over 14,000 different types of mushrooms that have been identified, all of which are decomposers. These decomposers break down organic matter and release carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus into the ground. Typically, mushrooms are seen on decaying plant material or trees, so why are we seeing them in our lawns?
Fungi appears for different reasons, but the common denominator is high amounts of organic matter ready to be broken down. Whether it is excessive amounts of mulch, a dying tree, or other organic matter, these fungi are here to help break it down into usable nutrients for plants. There are many types of lawn fungi, ranging from the common fairy ring to the smelly stinkhorn.
Though most of the time lawn mushrooms are not harmful to grass, fairy rings can cause dead spots. This long-lasting fungus can continue to grow larger year after year; this ring spreads through water movement and can be difficult to control. One way to control the spread is by aerating the lawn. This helps break up the mycelia, or fungal roots, and removes some of the decaying grass and thatch from the lawn. If the fungal mat, or mycelia layers, are larger than three inches thick, aerating will not work; instead, the area of affected lawn should be removed, replaced with new soil, and reseeded. There are fungicides which treat fairy rings; however, they are not readily available to homeowners and will need to be applied by a licensed applicator.
Fairy rings may be a nuisance in the yard, but other fungi are highly sought after in the home garden. Mycorrhizal fungi are highly beneficial to the soil as they help increase nutrient uptake of plants, as well as increase water intake and disease resistance. This fungus is often not seen but will occasionally send up a fruiting body, or mushroom if the host plant is nearby. Some plants, such as trees, will not grow as well unless this fungus is present in the soil.
Other fungi are more of a curiosity than a nuisance. Puffballs – small, white ball-shaped mushrooms erupt to disperse spores. Stinkhorns – tall, narrow mushrooms that emit a strong odor attracting flies, which in turn help disperse the spores. Though not a true fungus, slime molds behave in a similar manner. The most common lawn slime mold is Fuligo septica, also known as dog vomit slime mold, which is exactly what this slime mold looks like. These curiosities are just that, curious; no damage occurs to the lawn, and they can be removed by digging up the area. Mowing, kicking, or stepping on the mushrooms will spread the spores and you may end up having more rather than less mushrooms in your lawn.
If you have concerns about your pets or children ingesting mushrooms from your lawn, remove them before allowing access to the area. While not all mushrooms are poisonous (mushroom pizza anyone?), some are, and it is extremely difficult to distinguish between an edible mushroom and a poisonous one. If you suspect that a poisonous mushroom has been ingested, call Poison Control immediately at 1-800-222-1222.
Take the time to enjoy the “fun-guys” that have come with the change of the seasons and appreciate the work they do for our soil and yards!
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