Identification: white, hydrophobic fungus in soil

Discussion in 'Fungi, Lichens and Slime Molds' started by billmvg, Feb 21, 2017.

  1. billmvg

    billmvg Member

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    Hi,
    I have some houseplants which have developed a white fungus in patches in the soil. Not on top of the soil. Down inside. In some cases, the fungus grows to fill the entire pot. The fungus is extremely water repellant, and one of my concerns is that when I water, I end up with huge dry patches where the fungus is present. At first, I noticed the fungus in soil that had a fair amount of chunks of ground bark, and I assumed that it was a fungus growing on the decaying bark. I removed those plants. However, the fungus has spread to other pots which don't have any visible bark in them.

    The spores of the fungus seem to just be generally present in the room. I tried getting rid of all of the soil that was infested, but the fungus keeps appearing on new plants.

    I'm a fanatic about not overwatering, and always check the soil to be sure that it is at the proper state of dryness for the particular plant before I water, and I drain excess water out of each pot before I put it back in its place (I tip each pot up and let any excess water drain out into a waste bucket). The room has pretty good ventilation, usually too much, rather than too little.

    I clean everything that I use on the plants with rubbing alcohol in between each use.

    Most of the plants with affected soil are African violets, but also several calatheas, some ferns, and a few hoyas. Most seem to be growing well, but at least with the calatheas, if the fungus fills the pot, the plants begin to die back. They never die completely. They keep putting up new growth, but they never grow lushly in the soil with the fungus.

    I also have several orchids growing in open, bark-rich orchid mix, intermixed with the other plants. Interestingly, none of the bark/mix in the orchid pots has developed the fungus. Not a single one, ever.

    From what I read, the fungus ought to be harmless to the plants, only feeding on the decaying organic material. But the extent of it, and the water-repellant properties are beginning to worry me.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks!
     
  2. billmvg

    billmvg Member

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    I just wanted to add that one of my questions is whether or not this kind of fungus is really harmful. The only problem that I see are with the calatheas, and they are notoriously hard to keep growing in any case. So I am never certain if the problem is the fungus, or if the problem is that the calatheas are likely to fade away in any case. (I do have many thriving calatheas, but I'm not quite ready to introduce the fungus to those so that I can see if they go downhill after that....)

    I wish that I knew if I should try to treat the fungus, or not.
     
  3. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    It sounds like it has not been too harmful, but it doesn't seem like a good thing. I wonder if it might be mushroom mycelium? Can you post a photo? I think I would try simple things, like keeping the plants on the dry side, repotting with fresh soil, better air circulation, all of which you have done. Some people have recommended sprinkling cinnamon on soil fungus.
     
  4. billmvg

    billmvg Member

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    Thanks, Eric.

    I would like to add a photo or two, but I don't know how. I looked at the help pages and clicked the link 'insert photos in my posts" --- but all I get from there is an error message saying that the page can not be found. I tried clicking on the camera icon in the post area. that got me a message saying that I had no media. And in the media area, I have not yet been able to find anything to tell me how to add new media. It does not seem to be obvious.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Bill
     
  5. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    When you post there is a button below the text box marked "Upload a File". Instructions are here Attach photos and files
     
  6. billmvg

    billmvg Member

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    Okay, thank you. Here I go, images:
    fungus1.pdf
    fungus2.pdf

    These are the best pictures thatI could get with my cellphone. Note that the fungus starts either in a small patch in the soil, or on a chunk of wood or bark, then spreads to the surrounding soil. It typically is seen at the top and bottom, and then gradually fills the whole pot. I can't show pictures of the totally-filled pots, as those are the ones that I got rid of, initially.

    I have never seen a mushroom or other obvious fruiting body --- just the white threads and powdery stuff. Once the fungus fills an area, that area no longer will hold water as the soil normally does. It just runs right off or around. However, if I soak the whole pot in warm water for a few minutes, I do get enough water in the soil to keep the plants alive, so far, at least. That is a nuisance, though, as I feel that I should clean the bucket and replace the water in between soaking every plant.

    On the other hand, who knows, maybe the hydrophobic properties keep me from overwatering....

    Please let me know if the images don't open. In the video, an image appeared in the message. Here, I just get the names of the files. (Oh, and in the instructions, it says to click on a button for moving the files from the box that shows that it has been uploaded into the body of the post. There is no such button on my display after the files have uploaded into the space below the post. I just double-clicked on the file names, though and they moved to where I had set the cursor. )

    Many thanks!
     

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  7. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I see the images, but I don't know what it is. The only other thing I can think of to get rid of it would be some chemical rinse. Not sure what would kill the growth without killing the plants. Maybe changing the pH a bit might discourage the growth.
     
  8. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    Are the pics still on your phone. Can you leave them as jpg files, and upload them again? I have to save these files to open them. Stupid new browsers. Anyway, as jpg, we can see them without having to open them.
     
  9. billmvg

    billmvg Member

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    Okay, here (I hope) are jpg files:

    fungus4.JPG fungus3.JPG
    Thanks for asking, when I do them as jpg files, I also get the little button that lets me add them to the post as thumbnails. So that's yet another thing that I learned today.

    Bill
     
  10. billmvg

    billmvg Member

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    Hi, Eric,
    As to changing the pH, would it be correct that raising the pH would discourage the fungal growth? Or any change, in either direction? My well water is highly alkaline, and I lower the pH for watering the plants, as some of them (hoyas, and some of the orchids) naturally grow in areas where the rain is a much lower pH. When I was just using the unaltered well water, the plants were all dying. Since I started lowering it, everything is growing better, and blooming, new leaves don't just fall off, and so forth. But I'm wondering if I am also encouraging the fungus.
     
  11. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    I know nothing about this, but since I couldn't decide if this thread would do better in the Fungus forum, I had a look in that area and came up with a thread you could check. I'm not at all sure it's the same thing.
    Cedar mulch covered in smelly white fungus? .
     
  12. billmvg

    billmvg Member

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    Thanks, Wendy,

    I appreciate your efforts. I checked out the link, and it does seem to be very similar, if not the same. I hadn't realized that there was a separate forum for fungus. I'll try posting my questions there, too.

    Perhaps there will still be no answer, since I have never seen any fruiting bodies of any sort. But there's also the chance that someone there has experience with the general type of infestation.

    Thanks, again,
    Bill
     
  13. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    Rather than double post, I've moved this to the Fungi forum, where maybe people into fungi will recognize this.
     
  14. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    I came across this again when looking for something similar to a new posting. @billmvg, can you tell us what the upshot was for this? Did you repot everything, or leave it? Did it affect your plants?
     
  15. Sulev

    Sulev Active Member

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    Mycelis of Leucopaxillus giganteus looks similar and forms large white hydrophobic junks in the soil. It is smelly and can be harmful for living plants (at least for non woody plants).
    If it is Leucopaxillus giganteus, then it is pretty hard to get rid of it, without loosing your plant. Eventually this fungus will banish by itself after the soil is exhausted for it, but often cultivated plants won't survive so long.
     
  16. Frog

    Frog Rising Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Hi @Sulev - I'm hoping you could tell more about that: Is it the habitat or behaviour or something about the appearance that leads you to the saprobic Leucopaxillus: Is it a frequent issue in either gardens or potting soil for houseplants, in your region? Is the harm due to plants being crowded out or is there a fungus-produced compound involved?
    I am very curious partly because there are generally few recognizable suspects to consider when looking at only mycelia, given how similar most species' mycelia look to each other, and Leucopaxillus has not come up on my radar in this context before.
    Also, if you have any links on this topic you could share, that would be marvellous.
    Thanks!
     
  17. Sulev

    Sulev Active Member

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    This fungus is present in my garden, hence I see, what it does to my herbs and vegetables.
    The harm is done partially by chemicals, that the mycelis emits (the soil with the mycelis smells strongly after some chemicals), and partially by hydrophobic effect (plants don't get water from the soil, even after several rainy weeks there will be bone dry patches in the soil, where the mycelis is residing), at least it seems so.
    But of course, there could be some other fungi with very similar appearance and effects. I first misidentified it, but got correct ID from a mycologist recently.
     
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  18. Frog

    Frog Rising Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Interesting! Thank you @Sulev
     
  19. Sulev

    Sulev Active Member

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    According to my observations different plants have different tolerance towards the Leucopaxillus giganteus presence.
    Plants, that are very unhappy because of mycelis infected soil and possibly die before giving any harvest, are: cucumbers, melons, watermelons, ocra.
    Plants, that suffer from the fungus, but still give some reduced crop: peas, potatoes, onions, cabbages, kale, turnip, rutabaga, Dahlia, carrot, strawberry, peanut, oca.
    Plants, that seem to be pretty tolerant and have little issues (for instance, young plants may still suffer and even die) with the fungus, are: garlic, green beans, broad beans, Lima beans, beets, corn, pumpkin, spinach, fennel, cape gooseberry, tomatillo.
    Even weeds suffer strongly. Only rhizomes/roots of a Couch grass and of a Field horsetail survive on infected grassland in the active mycelis area.
    Trees are more tolerant. I have seen, that Leucopaxillus giganteus has only small to none effect on oaks, chokeberry, white-cedar.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2020
  20. Frog

    Frog Rising Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Did the mycologist identify the fungus from fruiting bodies present in your garden?
     
  21. Sulev

    Sulev Active Member

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    Yes, by the pictures, that I uploaded to the public database. This mushroom grows fruiting bodies twice a year, in the summer and in the autumn, but mostly in grassland. There are usually no fruiting bodies on tilled land, only those white hydrophobic patches of mycelis in the soil.
     

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