Black fungus

The term “Black fungus” does not refer to a specific fungus. Any fungus that appears black is simply labeled as black fungus by the general public. Below are some of the fungi that people tend to consistently refer to as black fungus.

Black nail fungus

Fungi that cause nail infection are not necessarily black. However, since the nail tends to turn black, people talk of black fungus under the nail. Black fungus under the nails is about the last thing that anyone would want, yet fungal nail infection is not at all uncommon. Fungal nail infection happens when fungal spores get in under the nails and start to grow there. Public places like swimming pools or public bath stalls are a common source of infection. Also, for those who like getting a pedicure and manicure the places that do this can also spread nail fungal infection if they are using improperly sterilized equipment.

Black fungus on drywall

A number of fungi that appear black can grow on damp drywall. People will therefore talk of black fungus or black mold on drywall. Since fungi are potentially a health hazard they should not be allowed to grow in occupied spaces.
Black fungus that exists below the surface of the drywall cannot be removed without cutting the entire part of the drywall and replacing it.

Black fungus (sooty mold) growing on a citrus tree

Sooty mold is a black fungus that looks exactly like its name…black. The fungus grows on the limbs and leaves of trees, shrubs and even indoor plants.  Sooty mold occurs on trees that are infested with sap-sucking insects like aphids, white flies or scales. These insects produce a sugar-rich waste called honeydew. Sooty mold is attracted to, and thrives on, honeydew, which coats the leaves, branches and even fruit of an infested tree. The black fungus is targeting the honeydew rather than the tree.

So, the appearance of sooty mold is often a sign of insect infestation. Sooty mold is one of the few fungi that does not actually harm the plant, though it can affect photosynthesis. Control this fungus by controlling the insects.

Black fungus, aka cloud ear, wood fungus, mouse ear, and jelly mushroom.

The black fungus (Auricularia polytricha) is an edible jelly fungus. It is mostly sold dried but is also available fresh. It is very similar to another fungus called Jew’s ear (Auricularia auricula). Black ear fungus grows naturally on trees and rotting vegetation and is native to East Asia. They either grow wild or are cultivated and are gathered in summer and autumn. It derives its name from its black color and the fact that the convoluted surface of the mushroom looks like an ear. It’s also known as cloud ear, tree ear, mouse ear and black fungus. Although it’s traditionally used to improve circulation, the cholesterol-control aspects have been a more recent discovery.

Black fungus contains a range of micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It also provides a range of important vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, folate and ascorbic acid. In addition, the mushroom also provides minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.

Black fungus is considered safe and nontoxic for the majority of the population. There is no research into the safety of black fungus during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so women during these times should consume black fungus with care. Consult with your doctor before eating wood ear mushrooms if you take prescribed medications, as these mushrooms may cause undesirable drug interactions.

About Jackson Kung'u

Dr. Jackson Kung'u works for MBL, a laboratory that specializes in identification and enumeration of mold and bacteria commonly detected in air, fluids and bulk samples collected from homes, schools, offices, hospitals, industrial, agricultural, and other work environments. Jackson also provides a unique Mold Training Course on How to Recognize Indoor Mold, Develop Effective Sampling Strategies, Interpret Laboratory Results and how to Control Mold Growth.