How to spot shotgun fungus and keep it from leaving its mark on your home and car

CLEVELAND - As people start to get their gardens and flowerbeds ready for winter, you may spot a problem that can cause a lot of damage.

It's called shotgun or artillery fungus, and if given the right living conditions, it can flourish and leave its mark on your home, your patio, even your car.

Susan Rinehart spotted it this summer, tiny black dots all over her house, plants, even her car.

"I at first thought maybe it was coming from my maple tree," Rinehart said.

A friend told her it probably wasn't sap or tar, but something called shotgun fungus.

We showed pictures we took of the black dots to Timothy Malinich, a horticulture teacher with the Ohio State University extension office, and he agrees that it looks like pockets of shotgun fungus spores.

"This particular fungus is just about everywhere. It's probably been growing there for a while, the mulch is just feeding it," Malinich said. He said the fungus likes moist, organic matter to feed from, and that's what mulch can provide.

The problem is you probably won't even notice it living in your mulch or soil until it decides to spread.

"It just basically shoots itself out. Under enough pressure it will shoot it for 6, 7, 10 feet," Malinich said.

"It's all over my house it goes all the way up to the soffits. It's all over my car, the roof of my car," Rinehart said.

Malinich said there's no way to completely kill the fungus, nor do you really want to.

"They are consuming the stuff that is plant waste, the leaves and the sticks and everything that's laying on the ground."

He said you can try to control it by removing any mulch you have, turning over your soil to air it out, and make sure the mulch you do use is no more than two inches deep. You can also replace your mulch with something inorganic, like river rock or limestone. Malinich said the fungus spores don't pose a health threat that he knows of.

As for removing it, Rinehart said "It's very hard to get off. You can scrape it off and it leave a little dot… I've tried all kinds of things, mineral oil, nail polish remover, gasoline."

Malinich said to use trial and error when trying to clean up the marks left behind by the spores, and be sure to test a small area first.

He also said the wet spring and summer we've had has probably helped the shotgun fungus reproduce and people are noticing it in places they haven't before.

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