If you have black mold in your house, you should go outside right away.
Garden variety black molds are something else entirely. Well, mostly.
Mold of any color
Molds are a type of fungus. Other common fungi include yeasts, mushrooms, and truffles. Fungi do not contain chlorophyll, so they do not perform photosynthesis. Instead, they get their food by breaking down and absorbing organic materials. Fungi reproduce using spores and many of them generate threadlike filaments, called hyphae. These hyphae develop into a complex network, called the mycelium. Despite all the similarities, slime molds, such as dog vomit slime mold, are not fungi. We’ll leave that discussion for another day.
You may see grey mold, white mold, black, or even blue mold. There are several different types of black mold. All of them produce black mycelium. Most of them are relatively benign, but some of them are dangerous.
Toxic black mold
After building materials are exposed to moisture from flooding or fire-fighting, Stachybotrys chartarum fungi start to grow. Generally rare in nature, these spores can also be found in grain and soil. Water-damaged buildings provide the perfect habitat for these microfungi to breed and grow. As they grow and are disturbed, they release toxins into the air that can make you sick. Toxic black mold needs to be removed right away.
Sooty mold is another black mold. Often seen on citrus and other tree leaves, onions and garlic, peanuts, and grapes, this black mold is the Aspergillus niger fungi. For the most part, this variety is safe to be around, unless you are a farmworker and exposed to it alot. In that case, a serious lung disease called aspergillosis can occur. This fungus can also cause fungal ear infections (otomycosis).
I was surprised to learn than the sooty mold fungus is commonly used in industrial applications to produce citric acid and high fructose corn syrup, and to clarify wine. Weird, right?
If you see sooty mold, apply sticky barriers to halt the protection provided by ants, and give your plants a wipe down to remove the mold.
Alternaria leaf spot
Also known as Alternaria rot and black rot, Alternaria leaf spot creates black or brown spots on the leaves of many garden plants. It can also create dark, round, flattened lesions on cherries, papaya, tomatoes, and many other fruits. Similar in appearance to blossom end rot, Alternaria leaf spot damage can appear anywhere on an infected fruit. [Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a photo I could use.] Exposure to the Alternaria alternata fungi has been found to trigger asthma and allergic rhinitis.
If this mold appears in your garden, your plants will benefit from proper spacing, pruning for better air circulation, and the removal of affected plant material.
Bottom line: If you see black mold, find out which type it is and take the appropriate action.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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