2017-08-24 / Editorial Page

Consumers get answers from Ga. Department of Agriculture

Georgia Department of Agricul­ture, Gary W. Black, Commissioner, 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SW, Atlanta, GA 30334.

Q: What are these strange things growing on top of the soil of one of the houseplants I set outside for the summer? They look like little bird nests. Is this a disease that will hurt my plants?

A: What you are seeing is a type of bird’s nest fungus. There are several species, and you can think of them as little mushrooms with their caps turned upside down. Instead of the spore-bearing gills found on the underside of many mushroom caps, bird’s nest fungi have disk- like structures that look like eggs in a little nest or smooth stones in a cup. When raindrops splash into the cups, they spread the spores. This gives some of them the name “splash cups.”

Bird’s nest fungi live off dead organic matter such as the mulch underneath your shrubs and around your flowers or the organic matter in potting soil. They are harmless to your plants. They are not edible. If you don’t want them, scrape them off the surface of the soil.

Although they look unusual, bird’s nest fungi are common and are harmless.

Q: Can we grow wishbone flower in Georgia?

A: Absolutely. It is an easy-to- grow annual that is good for plant­ing in containers or in the ground. Most flowering annuals like full sun. Wishbone flower will take full sun but will bloom and thrive in partial shade. This endears it to gardeners who want a little more summer color in shadier areas. It likes moist, but well-drained soil.

The plant gets its name from how its connected stamens look like a wishbone. It is more often sold today under the name “torenia.” Colors range from violet and purple to pink, white and even yellow.

Wishbone flower blooms all sum­mer, and is usually sold at garden centers in spring and early sum­mer. It is easy to grow from seed. Although we have never tried it, it is also listed as a houseplant that can be grown in winter in sunny windows. If you don’t see it at gar­den centers now, you may want to put it in your plans for next year’s garden.

Torenia is sometimes called wishbone flower due to its linked stamens. Colors range from vio­let and purple to pink, white and even yellow. This variety is Gilded Grape.

Q: When is the next auction of rehabilitated horses in Georgia?

A: The next auction will be Sat­urday, September 23, at the Lee Ar­rendale Equine Center, 645 Gilstrap Road, Alto, Georgia 30510. The gates will open at 10 a.m. The sale will start at 11 a.m. For more infor­mation, contact the Georgia Depart­ment of Agriculture’s Equine Health Office at 404-656-3713. (M-F 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

Q: The leaves on my gold dust plant (aucuba) look like they are scorched black. What is wrong? Is it fire blight?

A: The damage may look like fire blight, but it is sun scorch from the plant getting too much intense summer sunlight. Aucuba should be planted in partial to full shade. Prune out the dead leaves and consider moving the shrub or planting a more sun-tolerant shrub where it is.

If aucubas get too much intense summer sun, they can develop sun scorch. Plant aucubas in shade or partial shade.

If you have questions about agri­culture, horticulture, food safety or services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce arty.schronce@ agr.georgia.gov or visit the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s website www.agr.georgia.gov.

Consumer Qs is a weekly ques­tion and-answer column by Arty Schronce at the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Please share your thoughts, questions and suggestions with him by phone, mail or email.

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