Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae

Garden of Horrors: Gymnosporangium Juniperi-Virginianae

The natural world is often stranger than we give it credit, case in point heteroecious rust fungi which requires two hosts to complete their lifecycle. And some choose to do it in the creepiest way possible.

Enter Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae more commonly known as cedar-apple rust. The only thing more disturbing than its letter-salad binomial name is the way it looks—in particular in the spring when the pathogen is ready to leave its cedar/juniper home and find its next host.

The gall of Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae with with telial horns
The gall of Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae with telial horns

See what I mean? There’s something downright disgusting in those creepy finger-like protrusions. They remind me of an inverted tree-anemone (a comparison that is even more accurate when they’re wet.) Those are called telial horns, and they sprout from galls created by the fungus from the year before. Once it warms up the galls “sprout” and begins spreading spores that are usually looking for apple trees, although it’ll happily infest pears or hawthorns as well.

It’s not kind to the fruit trees either. Infestations can reduce the yield on crops and cause blemishes in the fruit—they can also kill the cedar trees as well. It’s so widespread that there’s loads of information out there focused on prevention. Luckily, the Teliospores can’t travel too far. So the best way to control the fungus is to remove cedars found within a mile of orchards. No cedars no fungus.

Here’s a quick video from Cornell University showing a timelapse of the horns growing from the fungi galls over six days. Vermiphobes you might want to look away.

Happy gardening.

☠️ More Garden of Horrors

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Clathrus archeri

Garden of Horrors: The Clathrus Archeri

The natural world is weird, wonderful, and often terrifying. Case in point: this morning, I stumbled across the Clathrus archeri—a real-world Lovecraftian species of fungi. Its know more commonly as the “devil’s fingers,” but to me, it looks more like a chthonian spawn emerging from its egg. The sticky black gleba doesn’t help. Don’t believe me?

Clathrus archeri
The devil’s fingers breaking free from their shell.

While originally from the Australasia the devil’s fingers have spread over the last century. Mycologists think that during WW1 the Clathrus archeri hitchhiked on Australian supplies for the war effort. Likewise, these stowaways have also shown up in California where it’s believed they arrived with shipments of bamboo. If the picture above hasn’t creeped you out, here’s a timelapse I found on YouTube showing one emerge.

Oh, and when mature they smell like rotten flesh. Because of course.