Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Spongy black fungus

What the heck is that thing?

I don't know, but it sure looks weird.

Back home at the computer, it's Tom Volk to the rescue again.

This is a specialized type of Sooty mold, Scorias spongiosa, that appears only on Beech trees.

Here's another page about it.

I first learned about sooty mold when I took the Master Gardener course. Certain plant-sucking insects excrete honeydew, a delightful name for what really amounts to sugary poop. The sooty mold lives off of it, and that's the black stuff you see on leaves (and other things).

I hadn't realized they came in such specialized varieties, though.


LauraP said...

Fascinating . . . and ick. Has the weather been mild enough that it's fresh or is it a leftover from the '08 season? Does it keep growing and growing?

Rurality said...

Apparently it starts off yellowish and then turns black over time, so this one started last fall I guess. That Tom Volk link says it stays on through the next spring sometimes. This is the first time I've seen it, but now I'll be on the lookout for it!

Michelle said...

That's some really wild looking stuff! Nature is so amazing.

Dave said...

Another Festival of the Trees must-have post!

Gail said...

Is Spongy black fungus how you looked it up? Searching always yield interesting data. gail

Lythrum said...

Crazy...something I would walk away from as quickly as possible. :)

swamp4me said...

We see this stuff quite often, but we know it as Beech Aphid Poop-eater (seriously). Sometimes, if you're, lucky you might find the larva of a harvester butterfly (Feniseca tarquinius) near/by -- maybe, I'm not familiar with what species of butterflies you have in 'Bama. They are predatory on the aphids that produce the 'dew.

mon@rch said...

How amazing is that stuff! WOW

Ericka said...

huh. cool. it's rare to see black growing things. i'll have to keep an eye out.

via said...

Looks like a Soot Sprite from 'My Neighbor Totoro'.

lisa said...

That's the coolest ugly thing I've ever seen! :) (Heh, my word verif is "snishlot", sounds like a noise that's made before that black stuff comes out! :)

Nickie said...

AHA! I took a picture of the same thing a few weeks ago, had no idea what it was :) You have answered my question for me. thanks!!!

KFarmer said...

Hummm... honeydew poo? Now that is too funny :)

Mezamashii said...

What a weird mold! fun to look at.

andycat01 said...

I have just rediscovered you. I was afraid something had happened that you could no longer post. Thankfully, you are back again and I have caught up on your posts. You are always an interesting read.

Rurality said...

Michelle, yeah I thought so too!

Dave, ok I'll suggest it.

Gail, yup! It's kind of funny but it usually works well.

Lythrum, it's funny, I never noticed it before, but now that I'm aware, I find it a lot.

Swampy, I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for the aphids (and their predators) later this year.

Tom, yeah, cool, huh?

Erika, once I knew to look for it, I found it again easily. Of course we do have a lot of beeches here.

Via, that sounds about right! I keep hearing about "My Neighbor Totoro" and should probably check it out.

Lisa, heh. Like your new pic BTW. :)

Nickie, glad I could help! Maybe cool ugly things are becoming my specialty, ha.

KF, oh yeah! I remember being so surprised when I first learned about honeydew.

Mezamashii, I agree. I couldn't quite bring myself to touch it, though. :)

Andycat, thanks, I will try to be more regular in the future.