Wednesday, 22 October 2008

A Nice Green Leaf: Honey, I Gave the Garden a Fungus

By Emma Townshend

Dsc00368Whilst other bloggers seem to have been having wonderful mycological adventures, I am stuck with rubbish news. I showed this phone picture of my front garden's latest arrivals to British fungi expert Patrick Harding at the weekend over a drink. His diagnosis? "Looks like honey fungus."

Patrick is the author of several notable books on the subject, including a new one called "Mushroom Miscellany" which compiles lots of wonderful fungal folklore - full of wonderful old stories, amazing facts and beautiful photographs too. (And it's less than £10 on Amazon! Come on!) So even though Patrick only saw a little phone picture, I didn't spend too much time doubting his expert opinion.

Luckily I spent the next day going round Kew Gardens in the presence of many horticultural luminaries including Ursula Buchan. Over lunch I quizzed a few people about what to do. The consensus was that I should dig up the fruiting bodies first, and dispose of them without letting the spores spread if possible,then dig out the liquorice-like rhizomorphs that let the plant spread underground. And then, depending on who you talk to, dose with Armillotox (though don't tell anyone you heard that from me).

This afternoon, however, I happened to have Matthew Wilson on the phone, so I asked him what the implications of that heavy chemical dose might be? His problem with the idea: "I just am not really sure that it will do anything. It's like a stronger version of Jeyes Fluid." What I ought to be doing, according to the prince of organic darkness, is just making sure that all the plants nearby are kept as healthy as possible. Honey fungus is everywhere, but it's only stressed plants that will succumb. (This was also what Tony Kirkham was saying when we were at Kew: he has trees there which have had honey fungus for 30 or 40 years, but which are still alive because they are properly looked after.)

Anyway, perhaps I can relax a bit, as long as I get on with the organic bit where I dig the fungus out and dispose of it. Especially given that most of my front garden is planted with Hebes, which apparently don't succumb easily to honey fungus. Just to Chris Beardshaw.

P.S. For those interested in knowing more about the old mushrooms, but who want to go down to the woods with an expert, Patrick runs a range of courses all over Britain during the autumn. He's just finished working out his schedule for 2009, so drop him an email at patrickharding AT hotmail DOT co DOT uk for more details.

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