Sunday, March 28, 2010

Grey Killer

Spring is a rollercoaster ride of hope and despair for gardeners, as tender new seedlings run the gauntlet of frosts, pests and diseases. This fungus, grey mould Botrytis cinerea, is one of the worst killers of plants grown in poorly ventilated, cold clammy greenhouses. Initially, it usually colonies dead or damaged plant tissue like last season's leaves or stems ....

... producing a furry coating for spore clusters on short aerial hyphae.
The fungus can produce these clusters of spores, known as conidiospores, in vast numbers, and at higher magnification you can see...
... that each hyphae is branched at the tip. You can also see the cross-walls in the hyphae that indicate that this is an ascomycete fungus
At high magnification the tip of the hypha can be seen to branch, with clusters of spores at the end of every branch....
... that are dispersed on the breeze as a grey cloud when infected plants are disturbed. Grey mould is a major killer of plants but paradoxically it does have its uses. Grapes that are infected with 'noble rot' - as the fungus is known in viticultural circles, produce a much more intense flavour, as the fungus withdraws water from the grape and concentrates the flavour..... a property that's exploited in the production of sauternes dessert wine.


  1. that's so strange! it makes me think about all those physics lessons in perspective...maybe we could "train" other plants to somehow benefit from the mold :D
    hypnotize them...haha.

  2. Hi Zoe, I think all the fungi are fascinating organisms - more interesting in some ways than plants and animals.


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