Friday, June 25, 2010


Coming soon! My review of this film!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Humungus Fungus Fest

Coming up 12-15 August 2010, the Humungus Fungus Fest in Crystal Falls, Michigan. The festival pays tribute to the Armillaria bulbosa thallus which lives is the area.

spp. are basidiomycete, mushroom-forming fungi which feed off living and dead plant roots and stems, decaying them in the process. There are some situations where Armillaria can be an aggressive pathogen, killing even otherwise healthy individuals, but many are weakly pathogenic, opportunistic, or saprobic. The taxonomy of Armillaria has been rather confused, but is being worked out using molecular (DNA-based) tools. Also using these tools, and also through cultural experiments, it has been shown that single genetic individuals (genets) can be found occupying very large areas. The humongous fungus near Crystal Falls is estimated to cover 38 acres, and be at least 1,500 years old, and may be as much as 10,000 years old. The report was published in the prestigious journal, Nature. An excellent and more accessible summary of the article can be found here.

I think this has to rate as one of the top coolest things about fungi. Because this giant living organism is, most of the time, almost totally invisible. Armillaria does produce mushrooms, but only when conditions are right. The body of an Armillaria (or thallus, in mycospeak) is comprised predominantly of microscopically fine threads of mycelium, though these may coalesce and form rhizomorphs, which are sclerotized (toughened) tubes of hyphae that move resources like water and nutrients around the thallus. Dense mycelial fans can also be found under the bark of some affected trees. And most of it is underground, or hidden under bark. Thus, while invisibility comes in being hidden below ground, and also in being microscopic. And in a third sense it is invisible. In being so large that the eye could not see the entire limit of its body from a single vantage point.

However, the fungal record for largest and oldest living thing, being only the first one to surface, did not last. A 600 hectare thallus was identified in Washington state, and an Armillaria ostoyae thallus in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon was ascertained to cover 965 hectares, or about 2,385 acres, and could be as old as 8,650 years. As far as I know, this is the current record holder for Armillaria thalli.

I don't know if I'll make it to the festival in Michigan. It does look like a lot of fun. (I will not type "-gi" next to that, I will not. Because that would be totally corny). Cribbage Tournament!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New rare fungus discovered in England

Multiclavula vernalis (Basidiomycota, Cantharellales, Clavulaceae) was recently discovered and confirmed in England. This fungus is rare, and while reported from more northerly parts of the British Isles, this is a first report for England proper. The genus is odd in that it's members are frequently mycobionts (the fungal partners in lichens) in basidiolichens . The vast majority of lichenized fungi are ascomycetes.

The fruiting body (like most true clavariaceous fungi) is like a fleshy tube. Coral fungi, though similar in morphology, are not closely related, but are considered allied in the "clavarioid" fungi.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Next installment of Mushrooms in the News

Really, I should call it "fungi in the news", because relatively few fungi produce mushrooms. But here's a mushroom article. Not much there, other than the typical mycophobic opening and then the praise for the mushroom. But the underemphasized lede is that you can grow morels, which had long been impossible to grow in cultivation.

The Morgan Hills (California) Times reports that this year's Mushroom Mardi Gras attracted 80,000 people. Wow! That's quite a crowd for fungi!

In other news, fungi once again prove to harbor the best tools against bacteria. Only this time, it appears the compound in question may help defeat some of the most resistant bacteria.

In the bad news department, an MMA fighter who decided to consume mushroom tea with friends had it end in tragedy. His hallucinations led to the grisly murder of his friend, who he thought was possessed by the devil. Once again, I feel I have to say it, "Psychedelic mushrooms are DANGEROUS". But so is MMA fighting.

And finally, another bit of GOOD news, some rare Australian orchids may be have a new lease on life as they've been transplanted WITH THEIR FUNGI.