A Woolworths customer was left scratching her head after finding a mysterious growth in one of her Discovery Garden plant pots.
In a post on a Facebook Discovery Garden group this week, the woman said she was horrified upon spotting the “gross” germination while watering her herbs.
“Ok, my oregano is looking odd,” she wrote alongside an image of what appears to be a mushroom growing among several seedlings.
While many other members sided with the woman’s disgust, others pointed out that the growth may simply be a fungal spore.
“What the hell?” came a response from one shocked woman on Facebook.
“Looks like it has been contaminated with fungal spores and you’re growing some mushrooms,” said another.
“They are likely from the air, particularly if you’ve had them outside or near an open window. Lots of fungi spreading spores this time of year,” another woman commented.
The woman said she keeps the pot by a window, but it is always closed.
Fungal growths can be beneficial to plants
Such growths are not uncommon and can actually be beneficial to plants, according to Australian Tropical Herbarium mycologist Dr Matt Barrett.
“Most soil will have fungi growing in it, unless very recently heat-treated, but the fungi are invisible threads helping to break down the soil into nutrients plants can use, so it is usually beneficial to the plants, not harmful,” he said.
“However, they often do not fruit unless the soil moisture and age are just right.”
Dr Barrett said the woman’s ‘beautiful little cup of fungus fruiting’ was unusual, as little mushrooms are more common.
“There is no danger as long as you do not eat the fungus. If you have little ones you may want to discard it, or just pull out the fruit-bodies when they appear,” he said.
Dr David Guest, a Professor of Plant Pathology with the Sydney Institute of Agriculture, said the fungus in the plant pot did not come from the air, but from the soil itself.
“It has nothing to do with having it near a window - it’s a sign the potting mixture is healthy,” he said.
“It’s perfectly harmless, if it’s a concern just pull it out and put it in the compost.”
The incident is not the first time the Woolworths promotion has received backlash, with one recipient of the miniature gardening kits claiming last week that their compostable pots had caught fire while in direct sunlight outside.
“Warning... these little seed packs that Woolworths are giving out can catch fire. It’s a hot day and they were outside and dry and they spontaneously combusted,” a friend wrote alongside a picture of the singed pots.
Woolworths confirmed to Yahoo News Australia they are investigating the woman’s claims.
“As a general gardening rule, keep your plants out of direct sunlight for prolonged periods and away from surfaces that may increase the intensity of direct sunlight, such as metallic surfaces,” a spokesperson said.
‘Are anyone else’s pots growing spots of mould? I’m just wiping it away but is there any way of stopping it?” one person asked in a private Facebook group.
At the time, Woolworths told disgruntled customers “mould is found everywhere and comes down to the environment and caused by local conditions such as moisture and airflow.’
To prevent mould growth, the grocery store chain said to ensure the seedling has proper ventilation and is in direct sunlight.
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