The fungus causes silver leaf disease in plants, which is spread by airborne spores and turns plants' leaves the metallic colour before slowly killing them. Q+A: Everything you need to know about silver leaf disease What is it? According to the Royal Horticultural Society, the fungus name 'Silver Leaf' refers to a gradual silvering of leaves on affected plants which then die off. Scientists believe he contracted silver leaf disease from chondrostereum purpureum while carrying out research as a plant mycologist. The 61-year-old from Kolkata, who wasn't named, had been working with 'decaying material, mushrooms and various plant fungi for a long time', medics said.