Basil Has Seed-like Pest
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Taffy Federle
Posted on: October 04, 2007

I am new to Pennsylvania, USA and had success with the sweet basil I planted in Spring but as I’m harvesting it now I am finding a lot of shiny black "seeds" stuck to the leaves and stems. Upon closer inspection they seem to have a tiny "tail coming from the center of the side attached to the plant. The plants don’t seem damaged except for a bit of dark brown at the base of some leaves and some curling. I haven’t seen any mature insects around these plants and the basil I’m growing on the other side of the house is not affected. I’m able to scrape the "seeds" off easily with my fingernail but want to know: Is my cleaned basil edible?

Yes, perfectly.

What are they?

They sound like the spore balls of a perfectly harmless fungus, that catapults its spore mass towards a darker area (to hit a plant) by suddenly turning its spore pouch inside out. This happens when it is wet outside and the fungus absorbs water until it sort of explodes! The spores will be there when the plant dies over the winter and the fungus can then grow in the dead detritus.

Did I cause this somehow?

No.

How do I prevent them from returning next year?

Clean up all detritus and cover the soil with fresh mulch from an area where this fungus did not appear.

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