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Fear not the domestic dry rot, it’s a very shy fungus

Oct 9, 2018

The Search for Wild Dry Rot Fungus (Serpula Lacrymans) In the Himalayas & Rockies

Dry Rot Serpula lacrymans,epithet is derived from the Latin words serpula for "a little snake" (as in aserpent) and lacrymans, meaning "making tears".  Referred to in the Bible as “leprosy of the house”,it remains a fascinating and enigmatic fungus. 

Whilst the dry rot fungus Serpula lacrymansresides frequently in buildings in Northern and Central Europe, Australia, Japan and other temperate regions, it has very rarely been reported to be growing in the wild, though it has been found in specific areas of the Himalayan foothills, forests of the Czech Republic and Californian mountains. 

However, timber used in historic buildings provides specialised ecological niches and dry rot and many other organisms have evolved to utilise it as a food substrate.  The ravages of dry rot are familiar as are the destruction caused by attempts to eradicate it.

EBS Ltd is continuing research into the origin and spread of dry rot from the Himalayas.  Our searches for the dry rot fungus in the Himalayas, Rocky Mountains, and the Czech Republic have enabled us to understand more fully the biology, ecology and physiology of this unique fungus.  Some questions remain unanswered; where it originated in the wild, how it entered the built environment, and what adaptations it has made to cope with the ever-changing environmental conditions in the western hemisphere, compared to the agreeable environment in the Himalayas.

Recent advances in the understanding of the pathology of dry rot have been described by Singh et al. 1993; Singh / White 1995 (a); White et al. 1995; Singh / White 1995; Palfreyman et al. 1995.  

Please click on the links below for more information.,%20May%2009.pdf


EBS Ltd’s ongoing research into the origin and spread of dry rot from the Himalayas led to this latest trip to Rocky Mountains in Canada and USA.

 Rocky Mountains habitat for wood decay fungi


Wet rot fibrous wood decay to tree stump 


 Wet rot wood decay to tree stump 


As more specimens of dry rot become available from different parts of the world, and more sophisticated techniques are applied to the study of their genomes, the answers to the unanswered questions should become available.  Current evidence supports an emergence of the organism from its Himalayan home via the timber trade between India and the UK/ Europe, but the case is by no means proven. 

As one of the UK's leading 'Building Doctors' in timber treatment, Dr Jagjit Singh took part in two episodes of the BBC's 'Raising the Roof'.  Click here to go to our 'About EBS' page, where you can view each 30 minute episode.


What this search has taught us is that Serpula lacrymansis out-competed in the wild by many other fungi, and that it can only thrive in the very specific environment of poorly maintained buildings. 


Dry rot in an Abbey poorly maintained in Dublin


Extensive dry rot spores


Dry rot fruiting body


Dry rot mycelium, strands and early fruiting body


That being so, it should not be necessary to treat it aggressively with remedial chemical timber treatment, that can cause damage to the health of the building’s occupants and is a concern to environmental health authorities.  Merely changing the indoor environmental conditions can halt and ultimately kill dry rot.

EBS Ltd environmental approach causes minimal damage to the building fabric.  We provide cost-effective, long-term holistic solutions, using non-destructive technologies. We are independent consultants with no vested interest in selling chemical treatments or carrying out building work, so you can be assured of an honest and unbiased assessment.

The search for a Himalayan link to a dry rot cure in buildings;

Multinational team of biologists study wood decay fungi in the Himalayan woodlands

Jagjit Singh & Nia White, Building Research & Information Volume 23, 1995 - Issue 4