Posts Tagged ‘fungi’

Nature Ramble

An excursion involving all of the senses

Bergh Apton, Norfolk The collection symbolised all that our own species has pondered, learned and felt about mushrooms for centuries

This collared earthstar was one of the prize finds at Bergh Apton community wood. Photograph: Mark Cocker

he difference between a fungus foray and most other forms of nature study is the gregariousness of it all. There were more than 20 of us, aged eight to 80, joking and laughing and clustered around our guide, who is himself like a rare treasured specimen. Tony Leech is an expert who contributes as much simple human joy to a group as he does knowledge.

Each person scoured the ground for a contribution to bring back to the central hub of discussion. Our guide then marshalled these converging tributaries of inquiry into a wider delta of mycological conversation. This one was a dryad saddle. There was a wood blewit, or parrot waxcap, a collared earthstar. I often stood simply to marvel at the poetry of mushroom nomenclature. Ponder awhile the wrinkled peach, the parasol, the lilac bonnet – and the dog stinkhorn.

It was an excursion involving all the senses. We lay on the ground to be on intimate terms with the tiny earthtongue or dead moll’s fingers, whose pencil-thin fruiting bodies poked up like death-blackened digits. We inhaled a deep whiff of ocean in a mushroom called crab brittlegill. Best of all, we stood in amazement at the crazy fecundity of fungi: a fruit body of the football-sized giant puffball can produce 6bn spores.

Eventually the whole afternoon of encounter was distilled to Tony Leech’s basket of specimens. Here were gathered all the toadstools that were beyond our collective ken, and whose identities can sometimes only be settled by examination of spores that are 1/200th of a millimetre. In a sense, that collection symbolised all that our own species has pondered, learned and felt about mushrooms for centuries.

Yet that same basket also summarised the unfathomable wonder of life on this planet: for it contained the stories of 100 different fungi, which had each travelled through time probably for millions of years to meet on that afternoon in that October sunshine.

Source: TheGuardian

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Nature Ramble

Illegal foragers are stripping UK forests of fungi

Gangs commercially picking edible fungi to sell to restaurants and markets are leaving a ‘trail of destruction’ across ancient woodlands, such as Epping and New Forest

Gills, frills and pores … illegal picking is destroying the rich variety of fungi in Epping forest, with both edible and non-edible fungi being picked and sorted later. Photograph: Graham Turner/The Guardian

“Here we go – this is one of the really nasty ones,” says Jeremy Dagley, pointing at the cappuccino-coloured cap of a two-inch mushroom nestled in the coppery leaf litter in Epping Forest. “The brown roll rim will kill you and it is not a slow death.”

But a few steps further on he discovers a mushroom the size and shape of a toasted tea cake. “This is a penny bun – also called a cep – and it’s really edible,” he says. “It is the one the pickers love. They are really expensive and really lovely to eat.”

Epping Forest, an ancient woodland straddling the border of greater London and Essex, is one of the best fungi sites in the country, with over 1,600 different species. But, like other fungi-rich sites such as the New Forest, it is being stripped out by illegal picking by gangs believed to sell the wild mushrooms to restaurants and markets.

“They leave a trail of destruction,” says Dagley, who has been head of conservation for 20 years at the 6,000 acres wood. “It has stepped up over the last five years. Sometimes people run away when they are challenged, but we have been threatened too. People pick using knives so they feel armed.”

He says pickers often take everything away and sort the edible from the poisonous later: “You can find people with 40kg of fungi, which is huge” but much is just thrown away.

Dagley says it is distressing to see the destruction, and it prevents the forest’s 4.5 million annual visitors enjoying the spectacular variety of fungi. The weird and wonderful shapes and colours of the fungi he points out revives his enthusiasm. “You have gills, frills and pores and the puffballs, they are like things from outer space,” he says.

Dr Jeremy Dagley, head of conservation at Epping Forest with some puffballs. Photograph: Graham Turner/The Guardian

The growing popularity of foraging for wild food may be part of the problem, says Sue Ireland, director of green spaces for the City of London Corporation, which manages Epping forest: “In rural areas, foraging is fine if you are picking for your own personal use.” But the difference with Epping Forest is that it is on the doorstep of the millions of people in London and can even be reached by tube train.

“The vast majority of people know that you shouldn’t pick wildflowers and we need to treat fungi like that,” says Ireland. “Fungi are beautiful and we want everyone to be able to enjoy them.” Rare species abound even in urban areas, she says, with a new species for the UK being discovered on London’s Hampstead Heath in 2013.

Source: TheGuardian Read more

Make you Fink on Friday

It would appear to be an environmentalist’s dream come true.

Fungi Discovered In The Amazon Will Eat Your Plastic

Mushrooms (not Pestalotiopsis microspora)

Polyurethane seemed like it couldn’t interact with the earth’s normal processes of breaking down and recycling material. That’s just because it hadn’t met the right mushroom yet.

The Amazon is home to more species than almost anywhere else on earth. One of them, carried home recently by a group from Yale University, appears to be quite happy eating plastic in airless landfills.

The group of students, part of Yale’s annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory with molecular biochemistry professor Scott Strobel, ventured to the jungles of Ecuador. The mission was to allow “students to experience the scientific inquiry process in a comprehensive and creative way.” The group searched for plants, and then cultured the microorganisms within the plant tissue. As it turns out, they brought back a fungus new to science with a voracious appetite for a global waste problem: polyurethane.

The common plastic is used for everything from garden hoses to shoes and truck seats. Once it gets into the trash stream, it persists for generations. Anyone alive today is assured that their old garden hoses and other polyurethane trash will still be here to greet his or her great, great grandchildren. Unless something eats it.

Source: co.Exist Read more

Opinion:

Now I ask myself, if millions of tons of plastic can be eaten by mushrooms, we will have millions of tons of mushrooms, what good are the mushrooms?

Monster Mushrooms

There is no indication that they are edible, maybe they can be composted, maybe they will mutate and we’ll have monster mushrooms invading the planet.

At least, I guess they are compostable

Will Monsanto try to GM them? That’s a scary thought.

Pestalotiopsis microspora

This is the actual fungi involved.

I’m not the expert, and don’t understand how this relates to a mushroom, but it doesn’t stop me from wondering about the results of our meddling.

Wondering what happens when we change the diet of these mushrooms to pure plastic. What happens to the cellular structure. If they prove edible, are the mutant changes going to be passed on to the eaters?

What by-products, residue or effluent are left after the mushrooms have devoured the plastic? Are they going to produce some equally hazardous gas/es like methane and turn our planet into a warmer version of Neptune which, I believe, has a frozen methane atmosphere?

Irradescent Mushrooms

Or, maybe they’ll just glow in the dark and we’ll have pretty blue mushrooms everywhere.

So many questions.

Let’s face it, we have jumped the gun before on many issues, only to find them eventually detrimental.

It all sounds wonderful, too good to be true, but I am left with nagging doubts.

How about you?

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