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.

Stachybotrys – The Black Mold Demystified

Since the 1993-1994 unusual outbreak of pulmonary hemorrhage (lung breeding) in infants in Cleveland, Ohio, that was then thought to be due to  exposure to Stachybotrys, the health effects associated with this mold have remained controversial. Frequently referred to as the Black Mold by the general public, Stachybotrys has probably caused more economic and psychological agony than ill-health. The mold has resulted in multimillion dollar remediations and litigations.

Stachybotrys was first associated with death of horses in Eastern Europe in the 1930s. Horses fed with hay contaminated with Stachybotrys were reported to surfer from a disease characherized by irritation of the mouth, throat, and nose; shock; dermal necrosis; a decrease in leukocytes; hemorrhage; nervous disorder; and death.

While Stachybotrys is so much feared the number of cases where it was the cause of ill-health or death are insignificant compared to some other toxigenic molds such as Aspergillus flavus or Aspergillus fumigatus. There are about 15 species of Stachybotrys but the most well known is Stachybotrys chartarumStachybotrys chartarum is sometimes erroneously referred to as pathogenic mold. When encountered in buildings it’s a serious problem for homeowners, building managers and remediation contractors who must deal with the human issues and remediation. The presence of a single spore in an air sample is enough for some professionals to declare the remediated building unfit for human occupancy. Currently there is no scientific evidence to support such a decision. Perhaps such decisions are driven by fear of liability, fear of being sued by someone who may later believe they were sick because the building was found to have a few spores of Stachybotrys when they occupied it. It’s time the scientific community demystified Stachybotrys, the black mold, for everyone’s peace of mind.

Should you have a question on Stachybotrys please contact us at 905-290-9101 in Ontario or 604-435-6555 in British Columbia.


1. Stachybotrys chartarum: The Toxic Indoor Mold.

2. Indoor Mold, Toxigenic Fungi, and Stachybotrys chartarum: Infectious Disease Perspective.

Black Mold Symptoms Explained

The phrase “black mold symptoms” is one of the most searched phrases regarding health effects of mold. The general public believes that black mold is dangerous. However, the term “black mold” does not refer to a specific type of mold. Similarly there are no symptoms specific to “black mold”. A number of molds that grow indoors may appear black. Generally all molds regardless of their color are potentially a health hazard if allowed to grow indoors.

Symptoms of Mold Exposure

The term “black mold symptoms” is rather misleading. People who are sensitive to molds, regardless of the color of the mold, may experience various symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay, demolition workers tearing down a moldy building, and even people working near or in composting facilities. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. People with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.

These symptoms are not restricted to mold exposure. They could also be caused by other airborne polutants. Therefore, the fact that someone is experiencing these symptoms does not necessarily mean they are caused by mold exposure. It’s also important to remember there are no “black mold symptoms” and “black mold” could be any of the several types of molds that appear black.

Black Mould

Question:  My tenants are saying that there is black mould in my rental townhouse. I’ve replaced fixtures in the bathrooms, stopped leaks and spent thousands of dollars but they are still bringing in the local public health inspector.

I’m allergic to black mould myself and have been in while damaged drywall was being removed. I handled it myself with no ill effects and observed the joist cavities being treated with mould inhibiting sprays and ‘killex’.

Should I be worried that my tenants are still pursuing this investigation? I’ve taken every remedial step I can think of and the only stuff I saw was dried up and the rest looked like shower mildew to me. All the discoloration spots on the bathroom ceiling stuff came off with a cleaner called BAM and the paint was unaffected once the ceiling was wiped down.

Answer: Shower mildew is actually mould though it may not be what people call black mould (Stachybotrys chartarum). I would suggest you hire a qualified professional such as an industrial hygienist who is experienced in indoor microbial contamination. This person should be able to assess the extent of contamination, possibly determine the underlying cause, and then advise on the most appropriate level of remediation. They may also be able to advise you whether the tenants’ lifestyle could be contributing to mould growth. For instance, if they don’t switch the fan on (if there is one) when showering or bathing, then there will be mould growth due to condensation on the walls and the ceiling.

If you have further questions regarding black mould, please contact us at 905-290-9101.

Black Mold Question

Question: We have black mold in our basement along the wall where water damage occurred 5 years ago. It has been there for some time and the basement smells terribly musty.

I have developed an allergic reaction in my eyes, and my father’s coughing has worsened.

We would like to have the black mold tested as soon as possible. Since the black mold is in the concrete wall, how would we extract samples?

Thank you for your help.

Answer: To get a sample of the black mold, please get clear scotch tape. Cut about 3 inches and stick the tape on the surface with mold. Peel the tape and stick it on a plastic bag (e.g., ziplock bag). Put the sample in an envelope and send it to us by mail or you can bring it to the lab. If the concrete surface is wet, use a cotton swab to get the sample since the mold may not stick to the tape. To use a swab, roll the tip of the swab several times on the surface with visible mold. Put the swab in a plastic bag and mail it to the lab.

If you suspect that you have a serious mold problem, I would suggest you get a professional to come and assess the extent of mold growth, determine the underlying cause(s) and then recommend the best way to remove the mold. You may find a mold testing company near your area listed on the following web pages: