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Corn Tumours?

I’ve never seen this before. My corn seems to have tumours. Anyone ever experienced this?

corn tumour4

corn tumour3

corn tumour 2

corn tumour1


Sean tells me it’s a fungus called black soot, aka corn smut (wikipedia):

Corn smut is a disease of maize caused by the pathogenic plant fungus Ustilago maydis. U. maydis causes smut disease on maize (Zea mays) and teosinte (Euchlena mexicana). Although it can infect any part of the plant it usually enters the ovaries and replaces the normal kernels of the cobs with large distorted tumors analogous to mushrooms. These tumors, or “galls”, are made up of much-enlarged cells of the infected plant, fungal threads, and blue-black spores. The spores give the cob a burned, scorched appearance. In fact, the name Ustilago comes from the Latin word ustilare (to burn).

Considered a pest in most of the United States, smut feeds off the corn plant and decreases the yield. Usually smut-infected crops are destroyed. However, in Mexico corn smut is called huitlacoche (IPA /wi.t͡ɬa.ko.tÍ¡É•e/, sometimes spelled cuitlacoche), an Aztec word reportedly meaning raven’s excrement [1]. It is considered a delicacy, even being preserved and sold for a higher price than corn.


Huitlacoche is the fungal, culinary delicacy Ustilago maydis that grows on ears of corn. Inhabitants of Mexico and indigenous people from the Southwestern United States enjoy this rich, smoky ingredient in foods like tamales, soups, quesadillas, appetizers, and ice cream. While farmers treat huitlacoche as an infectious affliction that ruins corn crops, it has a long history in the cuisine of Aztecs, Hopi, and Zuni.

Henrietta’s Herbal Homepage entry makes me more nervous:

“Its use is attended with shedding of the hair, both of man and beast, and sometimes even of teeth. Mules fed on it lose their hoofs, and fowls lay eggs without any shells” (Rowlin). “It is doubtless by its abortifacient power that it causes the eggs of fowls to be extruded before there has been time for a shell to be formed. By what power does it cause the shedding of the hair of man and brute animals, and the casting off of the hoofs of mules long fed upon it?” (Prof. Tully). “In a cowhouse, where cows were fed on Indian corn infested with this parasite, 11 of their number aborted in 8 days. After their food was changed none of the others aborted” (Annal. Med. Netr. Belge, and Rép. de Ph.). The better to be convinced of the poisonous nature of this fungus, the author, after having dried and pulverized the drug, administered 6 drachms to two bitch dogs with young, which soon caused them to abort” (Dr. H. W. Burt, Amer. Homoeop. Obs., 1868, p. 305).


  1. kara kara 2007-08-31


    I’ll bet it’s either a fungus or the result of a parasite.

    Did you grow those on the roof??

  2. Hugh Hugh 2007-08-31

    no bought them. i think it’s genetic mutation.

  3. Sean McGaughey Sean McGaughey 2007-08-31

    My wife Nancy, says that it is called Black Soot and it’s caused by a fungus. She says to throw it out before it affects the other cobs in the batch.

  4. Hugh Hugh 2007-08-31

    thanks sean!

  5. julien julien 2007-09-01

    that is damn gross. toss em.

  6. kara kara 2007-09-01

    You BOUGHT them? I have a bridge you might like to buy, also ;-)

  7. Hugh Hugh 2007-09-01

    well we didn’t know we were buying cornsmut obviously.

    but where’s this bridge?

  8. Chris Hughes Chris Hughes 2007-09-03

    Is ‘corn’ a canadian euphemism? If so, looks like your ‘corn’ needs to be looked at by a professional. Not sure those little yellow lumps are normal either.

  9. zura zura 2007-09-04

    “Smut”, indeed.

  10. gardener gardener 2008-08-06

    i have a garden and that stuff is killing me! it has made my get rid of 2 plants so far!

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