LABELLE- As rainy season continues to soak the landscaping throughout local neighborhoods, many people are spotting some strange and unsightly yellow blobs in their mulch.
“What is this disgusting stuff?” Jenny Palmer asked in an online Florida mushroom identification forum. “Will it hurt my plants? Found in LaBelle, Florida 9/12/21.” She added a photo of the mulch around her mailbox where a splatter of what resembled cat spit up, had popped up.
“That is Dog Vomit Fungus or Scrambled Egg Slime. The scientific name is Fulgio septicai, and is not actually a fungus but a slime mold. Slime molds were formerly classified as fungi but are no longer considered part of that kingdom,” said mycology enthusiast and Fort Denaud resident, Sally Bailey. “It usually occurs in warmer weather and after heavy rains. It feeds on decaying organic matter. This is the reason we see it most often in mulched areas, where the mulch is breaking down.”
Despite the nickname Scrambled Egg Slime, it is not edible. It is also not really a mold, not a plant, and yet not an animal. Slime molds are in a class all to themselves and there are over 700 varieties.
“It’s not uncommon to see this strange-looking slime mold growing on or around the stems of plants,” Bailey explained. “Also, there is a slight chance of it smothering smaller plants, but this usually does not happen.”
Reports of this slime mold have been pouring in from LaBelle and surrounding areas. Bailey said she had found at least 100 different photos of it in her email. Many people confused or concerned about what it was.
“How do I get rid of it?” asked Palmer. “I sprayed it with the hose, and it spread all over the yard!”
“This slime mold is spread by airborne spores. After it goes through the slimy yellow phase, which incidentally makes a perfectly eerie Halloween decoration, it will crust over and turn light brown. If it is disturbed at this point, the spores will puff up like dust and can then be distributed by the wind,” Bailey replied. “Spraying it with water at this point will only result in increasing the spread of the spores.”
Although it can be a nuisance to gardeners, the organism may actually be helping your plants by consuming pathogens and bacteria that could harm them. It also has proven useful to scientists who study how genes work within cells, and it can even produces chemicals that may be useful in treating cancer.