Question: 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?
Answer: 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 disklike 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 it’s 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, Sept. 23, at the Lee Arrendale Equine Center, 645 Gilstrap Road, Alto. 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 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)