Homeowners may not know poria incrassata by its fancy name, but they'll know when it becomes an unwanted houseguest. The house-eating fungus looks like orange pancake batter and quickly makes itself at home. It can destroy an entire structure within months.
"When poria does invade a house, it's almost always catastrophic," Mississippi State University wood technology professor Terry Amburgey said at poriaincrassata.com. "The fungus will infiltrate a foundation, wood or concrete, and pretty soon the entire house goes."
Judy and Walter Moore of Los Angeles, Calif. are quickly learning that lesson. Poria, which can eat through an inch of wood per day, seemed to infest their home overnight, CBS 2 in L.A. reported.
They now face a $350,000 to $700,000 bill to rebuild after visits from specialists in hazmat suits and contractors, they told the station. The poria presence is so prevalent that it weakened walls to the point where a crew had to build a false wall to prevent the roof from collapsing.
The Moore's insurance company, Safeco, offered to pay $18,000 even though the family's policy is worth hundreds of thousands, the couple said. Walter Moore, a lawyer, is still battling Safeco after a court threw out the Moore's lawsuit against the insurer. He filed an appeal. "[The home] is our life savings and half of it is now worthless," he told CBS. "The other half is dubious."
When the Los Angeles Times reported on the mold in 1998, poria in California had been sprouting up with increased frequency for the previous two decades, the paper said. What makes the fungus so voracious is that it can function relatively far from a moisture source, secreting its own enzyme onto the wood that turns it to mush.
Poria shows up mostly in southern states, and has been found elsewhere in the U.S., according to poriaincrassata.com. Some experts believe the forest dirts used by landscapers from around the world originally spread the mold to domestic homes.
But no matter how it got there, once it arrives it spells trouble for homeowners. "It's... the most devastating wood-decaying fungus of houses that we know of," UC Riverside plant pathology professor John Menge told the Times.