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Everyone loves a nice-looking landscape. However, sometimes unique structures appear in our landscape for seemingly no reason. Fungi can form in our lawns or on our plants. Sometimes these fungal structures look very unappealing but otherwise aren't harmful. However, there are times when these structures can be a sign of bigger problems with our plants.

Trees, for example, often develop different types of fungi on them. Some fungi develop as a green or whitish mold-like formation on the bark of the tree. This is not damaging to the tree.

Yet, there are fungal formations on trees that can be a sign of greater damage to the tree. Conks or shelf fungi can form on the branches and trunks of our trees and look like shelves growing out of it.

When you see a conk, you are seeing the outward formation of interior decay in the tree. Conks are indicators that your tree needs to be removed in the near future. This is because the tree is decaying on the inside and therefore not as sturdy as it once was. If you have a tree with conks and would like to know if it should be removed, have a certified arborist inspect the tree.

Puffballs and mushrooms are also commonly found in lawns. Both of these structures are fungal formations growing off of some type of decaying organic matter within the soil.

These structures have no roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds like plants do. They have no chlorophyll, which is why they are not green and why they cannot produce their own food.

Mushrooms found in a lawn are most likely not edible. If you are unsure about a mushroom, do not eat it. There are a lot of poisonous mushrooms found that can cause severe illness and even death. It is best to avoid eating a mushroom if you are not 100 percent sure if it is safe.

Puffballs are the large round structures that have no stalk to hold them up off the ground. When they mature or are struck by a raindrop or kicked, the puffball opens up to spread the spores to new areas. Puffballs are common from the late summer to early fall.

Mushrooms are the formations found in your lawns and gardens that do have a stalk to hold them up off the ground. Mushrooms look like an umbrella and are often found where a tree is located or was recently removed, as they live on the roots of the tree or in the decaying roots of the dead trunk. Mushrooms are found in moist environments such as during rainy spring months or in an irrigated lawn.

We also see many types of slime molds in the landscape. Slime molds typically show up on mulch in our gardens and can take on many different appearances. One of the best-named slime molds would be the dog-vomit fungus which looks just as the name implies. There are also yellow, gray, white, off-white, orange, and brick red slime molds. All slime molds are aesthetic issues and cause no problems to your plants. If they bother you, they can be sprayed off the mulch with a strong spout of water.

Stinkhorns are another type of fungus we may find growing in the mulch around our flowers. Stinkhorns are small, pink stalks that stick up out of the ground with a brown, slimy cap similar to the cap on a mushroom. Stinkhorns are so named because of the unpleasant odor they can have. This is another type of fungus that causes no harm to the plants and doesn’t need to be removed.

For fungi in the landscape, there is no method of control other than hand-removal. They are either not harmful to our plants or they are just showing us the demise of the plant that is already happening.

If you have any further questions please contact Nicole Stoner at 402-223-1384, email, visit the Gage County Extension website at or like Nicole Stoner's Facebook page at Follow her on Twitter: @Nikki_Stoner.


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