PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Little brown spots are popping up on houses and cars around the area, but it’s not the work of vandals. It could actually be coming from your mulch beds.

“The first place I saw it was on the driver’s side window and I thought, ‘What’s that?’ and then, ‘Uh oh,’” Les Holliday said.

However, Holliday didn’t have brown paint on his blue car. He had artillery spores, which are tiny black bumpy dots that attach to anything and everything in their way.

Most often, the fungus grows in mulch.

“What it is trying to do is trying to shoot toward the sun. So, if it is near a reflective surface like a white car or white siding, it sees that as the bright thing it is going to shoot towards and that’s where it starts shooting the spores,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Garden Expert Doug Oster said.

The affected cars are parked next to a flower bed, where they’ve parked for years.

“It didn’t happen right away, so I don’t know if they incubate for a while or what it was, but it was there for months before. Like I say, from the end of May until the end of summer before the problem arose,” Donna Holliday said.

It is unsightly and it’s very difficult to get off.

When the cars were wet, KDKA-TV’s Rick Dayton managed to scrape it off with a fingernail, but on a vinyl siding or fencing, it was much more difficult.

It also leaves behind an oily residue that is almost impossible to clean. Look closely around your house. If you have them, you may be shocked at how many there are and how far they fly from your flower beds.

“When it gets on to your siding and onto your car, it’s like Super Glue. It’s very difficult to remove,” Oster said,

Oster suggests changing the mulch in your flower beds to help prevent the problem.

“These big giant pieces of pine bark stay dry basically, that’s the difference. That artillery fungus loves wet mulch and it doesn’t have to be cheap mulch. It can be any mulch and so when we supplant it with this, we use these big giant things, it dries out and the fungus can’t procreate,” Oster said.

Homeowners have many choices for decorative mulch and often don’t want to switch.

However, there is another option.

“Mushroom manure. If you put 40 percent mushroom manure into that mulch, for some reason that stops the artillery fungus from being able to procreate,” Oster said,

Thus proving once again, that an ounce of prevention sometimes is worth a pound of cure.


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