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Plant Diseases/Vegetable fungus


My questions concern some strange fungi that I've seen on vegetables from the grocery---all of them on "organic" vegetables btw, though that may not be a factor.
Now I'm in my 60's, so when you see things that you've never seen in all your years, it gives you pause.
The first thing (sorry I have no pictures): a few months ago on the store I saw the strangest fungus on some hydroponic tomatoes---it was like luxurious black fur, no kidding, even had a sheen to it, growing on the outside of the red tomato skin. It had covered several square inches of several tomatoes. It really looked like fur---with the "hairs" standing at least 3/8". Now it was somewhat startling to see it for the first time---looked like "outer space" ha. And when I told the grizzled produce guy about it he gave me a look of disdain, followed me over to see, picked up the box (cellophane covered) and went 'eewwwww' like a 9 year old schoolgirl. :-) OK, that's one.
Next is another nightshade, red bell pepper with a perfect outside skin, firm, fresh, no bruising---inside the seed cluster was totally covered with blue-black mold. Each seed was covered. This was fuzzy rather than furry. This one I the bottom half of before I saw the mold and made a salad. Unfortunately, I ate a ring before discovering the mold. Is there any chance of that being anything to worry about? Anyway, never saw this before and other peppers in that group were fine.
Lastly, I've had this happen 3-4 times now, all in the last year:
broccoli. Not sure if this is outside your field of expertise or not. Perfect head of broccoli, firm, green blue flowers. Except for one tiny flower which is brown. When I remove the single brown flower, a tablespoon or so of brown liquid, looks like black coffee exactly runs out. After the the first time I cut the stalk in half and saw one vascular "tube" (sorry I don't know the name, xylem?) dyed brown with the liquid all the way to the flower. Just one.
Have you seen anything like these before? My first instinct is to attribute it to new ways of growing things, or new varieties of vegetables I never grew up with. Or---mutations among the fungus.
Or most likely, something most experts are familiar with but layman see rarely. Anyway, thanks in advance. I wish I had pictures to send. Thanks in advance for your time!

Dear Blue:

I do also perhaps suspect a fungus on the tomato and pepper.  I would be just guessing without being able to see the "fuzz" with a microscope- since there are a myriad of different fungi. From your description, I would doubt if these would be of a health concern.  Most of the fungal organisms that we see on plants do not cause health problems to people. Areas that collect moisture (like wrapped boxes and cartons) can provide a suitable environment for these things to spring up. I suspect these things are more curiosities than anything else.  (The long hairs that you describe made me think of an organism called a slime mold, specifically Stemonitis.  This slime mold has hairlike sporangia- sometime called the chocolate slime mold.  You may "Google" Stemonitis on your computer to see a picture that you could compare to what you saw).

There are however several fungal organisms around the home that can cause respiratory problems in sensitive individuals.  These usually reside in damp dark areas. Some grow on cellouse like wet wallpaper in flooded areas.

The broccoli issue that you described doesn't sound like a disease.  There is a disease called bacterial soft rot in which a section of the head becomes blackish and slimy- smells like dead fish. Flowers go to mush.

If the opportunity presents itself in the future, try to get a photo.  I would love to see what you describe.  


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Dr Stephen Vann


Plant Diseases and Disorders of Lawn Grasses, Trees, Vegetables,and Ornamentals


Plant Diseases Identification and Management

B.S. Botany --- Miss. State Univ. M.S. Plant Pathology --- Miss. State Univ. Ph.D. Plant Pathology --- Texas A & M Univ.

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