Monday, September 29, 2008

Got my new mushroom book

I just got my copy of Mushrooms of the Southeastern United States, by Alan E. Bessette, William C. Roody, Arleen R. Bessette, and Dail L. Dunaway. What can I tell you? I'm tickled pink to have it in my library, and it will certainly help me in my identifications. They cover lots of different macrofungi other than gilled mushrooms sensu stricto (agarics), including puffballs, crusts, cup and saucers, bird's nests, carbon fungi, and polypores. Beautifully illustrated, including keys (which I haven't gotten to test out yet), and even some mushroom recipes. Unfortunately, I'm about to leave the country for a couple of months, so I'll miss a good chunk of the fall fruiting, as well as the rest of the college football season, baseball playoffs, and elections.
It's a bit spendy, but an indispensable addition to any Alabamian mycologist's library.

In Alabama news, you may have heard of Dothan, Alabama's recent incentive program to bring more Jews to the area. If you are Jewish, and are considering moving to an area of moderate climate, you may wish to consider Dothan, as there's a cash prize involved.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

So you've discovered an ancient yeast in an amber deposit, what do you do?

Brew beer, of course! That's what a Cal Poly researcher did. The amber deposit may be as old as 45 million years, and had over 2000 different microorganisms trapped inside, including a yeast which, although a bit choosy in its carbon diet, still was able to ferment and make beer.

In other cool myco-news, an article just came out in PLoS ONE about the speed of spore discharge in some coprophilous fungi. It turns out that some fungi can shoot their spores at speeds up to 55 miles per hour. Among those fungi examined was a species of Pilobolus, the hat-throwing zygomycete (not the dance troupe), which is an important part of any intro mycology lab, and which has a very cool mechanism for shooting its spores straight up into the air for maximal dispersal.
To view the action, Yafetto et al. used a camera with an amazing 250,000 frames per second capture rate!

Friday, September 19, 2008

An actual Alabama fungus article!

While I'm not the only mycologist in the world, nor the only person in Alabama (Alabamians do outnumber mycologists in the world, you can be sure), neither am I the only mycologist in Alabama. But one thing I'm pretty certain about at this point, is that I am the only mycologist in Alabama blogging about it. So while I usually post news of a fungal bent, I also post about some things in Alabama, and some things about fungi that I find in the local area. Here though, is an unexpected surprise: an actual article from the Birmingham News about mushrooms in Alabama. More specifically, about the fairy rings like the ones I've recently observed.
They also mention the existence of the North Alabama Mycological Society, which I should really check out, and you should too. And another bonus, is finding some good resources on mushrooms for all the Alabama mycologists out there, including some field guides on southeastern mushrooms!

Holy cow! In other news, History Channel is going to have a program on fungi this week, on Modern Marvels! I may have to check it out if I can, although that's also when some important pigskin is happening, too.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More Mushroom News!

It seems as though mushroom news is trying to keep pace with mushroom fruiting. Which is to say, there's been quite a lot of it.

It British Columbia, three men died at an industrial mushroom facility in a 'composting accident', prompting a wave of farm inspections. The worst composting accident I've had to date is a bad case of maggots. Just gotta dry that pile out and try to keep the meat and dairy out of it.

In other mushroom related news, two new video games are coming out from Nintendo. Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi, for DS, and Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars for the Wii. The basic premise is that a meteorite strikes the earth, and rather than wiping out dinosaurs or creating a race of zombies, it makes the mushrooms sentient and animate. According to the website, nice edibles like boletes (Boletus spp.) and morels (Morchella spp.) form utopian societies, while poisonous genera like Lepiota and Amanita become, surprise surprise, jerks. I did espy a bolete with gills, rather than tubes, which is just silly. Enemies include jackalopes, chihuahuas, rabbits, spiders, and moles.
Les Claypool, formerly of Primus fame, has written music for the games. You can hear some at the website for the game. Someone needs to tell this other yahoo that mushrooms don't have to 'come to life'. They are already plenty alive, even if they aren't motile. Sigh, zoocentrism strikes again.

And finally, if you're travelling through Macau or Hong Kong, you may want to stay away from canned cream of mushroom soup for a little while. Nothing grave, just a little foul smell when you open the can. Really, you should be trying the local stuff anyway.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What the ...? Hey, it's Mushroom Month!

Well, knock me over with a feather. I just checked the mushroom news, and apparently, September is Mushroom Month. It's being celebrated in Canada, and Pennsylvania, but it seems reasonable that it would be a pan-North American phenomenon. There's been plenty of mushroom activity around here, as the flurry of recent posts would indicate. If you'd like to celebrate with a fancy piece of clip art, you may go here. Or just check out this example:

You could even send someone a nice e-card. Isn't that nice? Happy Mushroom Month!

Now I have to wonder, will there be a Mold Month? Rust and Smut Week? Yeast Day?
How about a Fungi Imperfecti Festival?

Monday, September 8, 2008

The rare lacquered bracket

Here's another fungus in the news, a rare shelf fungus of the genus Ganoderma, G. resinaceum, otherwise known as the lacquered bracket (try saying that ten times fast). It appears that an amateur mycologist stumbled upon it in Worcestershire, UK.

We do have Ganodermas here in Alabama. According to North American Polypores (the 2 volume tome on these fungi, sadly out of print), there are three species in Alabama, G. applanatum, G. lobatum, and G. lucidum. Ganoderma applanatum is known as the artist's conk, due to the staining reaction that occurs when the hymenium (pore surface) is scratched. Kind of like that bolete over there with my name on it. Artist's conks are really common.

Ganoderma lobatum, I haven't seen. Or if I have I didn't know about it.

Ganoderma lucidum
is also known as reishi or ling zhi, and like the fungus in the article, may have some medicinal properties. It's also really common, with a lacquered appearance and often, an offset stipe.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Follow up on neighbor's fairy ring

I've just keyed out a mushroom from my neighbor's yard, and I do believe it to be Chlorophyllum molybdites, a common lawn mushroom of the Lepiotaceae (or rather, the Lepiotoid clade). Apparently, it is one of the most common agents in mushroom poisoning, although the toxin is rarely fatal. Key features include: a scaly cap (due to veil remnants, typical of Leps), an annulus (ring around the stipe or stalk), and gills free, at first whitish-yellowish, turning green and yielding a greenish spore print (hence chloro meaning green and phyllum meaning leaf or gill in the case of mushrooms). So, perhaps my neighbor is wise in plucking these mushrooms from her yard, to prevent bold mycologists from attempting to eat them.

Also, I just got back from a trip out west to Tuscaloosa. Quite a few mushrooms busting through over there. Quite a few. Boletes, Amanita, all kinds of good stuff...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Alas, Horse Whisperer author not Mushroom Whisperer

Mushrooms strike again. This time, it's the author of "The Horse Whisperer", Nicholas Evans. Apparently what he thought would be edible and choice were poisonous and life-threatening. The offending basidiocarps were Cortinarius speciosissimus (syn C. rubellus, above). Generally speaking, Cortinarius spp. are not really things for people to eat. According to "The Great Encyclopedia of Mushrooms", one might confuse the species in question for a certain species of chanterelle (Cantharellus tubaeformis). But chanterelles don't truly have gills like these guys do, and their spore print is not rusty brown like the corts.

People, please. When in doubt, throw it out. Your liver and kidneys will thank you. The old saw still holds, "there are old mycologists, and there are bold mycologists, but there are few old, bold mycologists".

Also, an update. My neighbor's fairy ring is fruiting AGAIN less than a week after she diligently plucked all the mushrooms and pitched them into the street.