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Solve the black dots on the sides and 9 other puzzles in the courtyard | George Weigl

Halloween isn’t the only time when weird and strange things appear in the yard.

Mother Nature has a bag full of oddities that trick homeowners with the treatments they leave behind.

Let’s take a look at 10 of the most popular “yard puzzles” this week, with 10 more coming next Thursday, November 3.

Has a dog vomited?

So you’re out enjoying the flowers when you notice an orange-yellow spot in the brushes that looks like a dog or another animal has vomited.

Despite their sloppy appearance, these blobs are actually the early reproductive stage of the fungus known as “slime mold” (and sometimes “dog vomit mushroom”).

Slime mold is harmless to humans, pets, and plants and will fade on its own after turning black and releasing powdery spores.

If you don’t like it, put it in a bag and throw it away.

This gelatinous orange growth hanging on a juniper branch is a stage of cedar and apple rust disease.

orange dots in green

Gardeners are often alarmed in the spring by another type of orange-horned point, which is found hanging on evergreen branches, most often junipers.

Although somewhat similar to Jell-O or something else in the world, these blobs are the work of a fungal plant disease known as rice and apple rust.

The fungus is particularly bizarre because it jumps back and forth between two different species—causing leaf spots on trees in the apple family one year and orange blobs on juniper species the next.

It is not a fatal disease, but it can be disfiguring and remarkably worrisome.

Mysterious Points

These tiny black dots often found on white surfaces are the spores of a fungus that lives in mulch, called the spores and known as the cannonball fungus.

Those little black dots on the sides

People with white fences, white house sides, and white cars parked next to covered driveway beds often notice tiny black dots that mysteriously “grow” on these roofs.

Usually bees or insects are to blame, but the sticky black dots are actually reproductive spores released by fungi that grow in mulch — sometimes up to 10 feet or more into the air.

Known as the “Artillery Mushroom”, this organism is harmless to humans, pets, and plants and actually does well by decomposing wood.

However, the spots are a nuisance to landscapes and are difficult to remove once they dry out.

stink fungus

This anomaly sometimes rushes off the ground. It’s another harmless – but odd-looking – fungal growth.

Those “projections” grow from the mulch

Before we leave the strange world of fungi, another strange mulch growth is sending out orange, finger-like buds with black caps. (Some say the bumps remind them more of a specific part of male anatomy.)

Known as “stinking pod” fungi for their foul odor, these bumps wilt on their own within a few days and do no harm, assuming you don’t try to eat them.

Kick them if you don’t like them.


This scaly growth on tree trunks is caused by a harmless organism called lichens.

Scaly growth on tree trunks

Gardeners tend to be concerned when they notice gray-green scale-like growths on all tree trunks and branches. Gardeners believe that the growth kills the tree, especially when the growth is on old, dead, or dying branches.

In fact, scaly materials are superficial growths called lichens that are harmless to trees. They can be found in completely healthy trees as well as those that die from something else.

Where did all the tulips go?

This scattered display of tulips was weakened by a combination of age and the feasting of the rodents.

disappearance of plants

When plants are there one day and disappear the next, the most likely explanation is animals. Rodents (mice, groundhogs, squirrel, etc.) sometimes feed on small, whole plants—roots and everything—while rabbits can gnaw annuals to seed, deer can devour even woody or thorny plants down to bare sticks ( or worse) overnight.

Occasionally, people steal plants—new plants in general while leaving empty holes behind.

And sometimes plants rot in wet soil, although this takes days or weeks.

Tulips are especially notorious for not attending. Bulbs are sometimes eaten by digging up rodents, sometimes they rot in wet mud, and tend to die on their own within two or three years even after the glorious first year display.

does not bloom?

A small number of blooms on shrubs such as hydrangeas can be caused by a variety of factors.

don’t bloom

One of the most frustrating mysteries of gardening is when a tree or shrub that was previously blooming well suddenly blooms — or not at all.

Several reasons can explain this reason, from weather to lack of light to pruning at the wrong time.

A little bit of investigative work and targeted correction usually solves this.

hidden fish

The mesh extending across the pond can protect the water park fish from birds and predators.

fish gold

The third mystery on the disappearance front is when all the fish (including the expensive koi fish) suddenly disappear from the water park or pond.

The main explanation is that a heron or egret (two very large birds) visited them to eat.

It’s also possible, though, that a mink found them…or maybe a raccoon, opossum, beaver, fox, or bear — all of whom enjoy a good fresh fish dinner.

Fishing line suspended over ponds can deter birds, while water lilies, submerged tubes and similar protections can give fish a place to hide during a siege.

orange shoe disease

When a walk in the park turns your shoes orange, that’s a telltale sign of rust.

“I walked on the grass and turned my shoes orange!”

This is a telltale sign that your garden has a fungal disease called rust.

The reproductive spores of this common late-summer fungus is an orange-colored powder that easily sticks to surfaces, such as shoes, earning it the nickname “orange shoe disease.”

Weed rust is harmless and rarely causes serious damage to lawns. However, it’s annoying when tracking orange spores indoors, and it’s a lawn stress that can take over the other problems that cause thinning lawn.

The orange powder will disappear on its own. Nitrogen fertilizers can avoid recurrence the following year.

grass patch

Brown spots in the garden are often the work of the caterpillars when they occur in early fall.

Grass patches turn brown

Another common panic is when patches of grass suddenly appear to turn brown in early fall, after a prolonged drought may explain this.

Patches can be small and random, or they can cover relatively large sections of the lawn.

This damage calls for screwing on sections of brown blades. If it is pulled like a piece of loose carpet, you most likely have a beetle feeding on roots from under it.

Caterpillars are creamy, creamy white, caterpillar-like caterpillars that voraciously feed on roots — enough to kill entire sections when there are enough of them. You’ll also likely see larvae in action when they pull out dead, rootless parts.

At this point, you can try to break down as many larvae as you can see, or resort to insecticides that kill them, such as Dylox (trichlorfon) or Sevin (carbaryl).

Or just plant new grass seed and apply a caterpillar inhibitor on the lawn in June or July to stop caterpillar hatching next year.

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