Cornell University

The Friday Afternoon Mycologist

After you work at any job long enough, Friday afternoons take on their own feel. Sometimes your energy level keeps you going right to the end of the day with the task you are supposed to be doing. At other times, the stress of the week crushes you, and you can only do vegetable simulations after 3 o’clock, surfing on the Internet perhaps (like reading this BLOG), or an even more mundane activity like cleaning up your desk. But sometimes you want to do something, but what you really want to do is something different, something fun, something impulsive. And let me tell you about those kinds of Friday afternoons: wild things can happen. It is as if the best stuff, the really unexpected surprise, is hiding, waiting for you and your exhausted, slightly demented mind. You open these treasures at 4:30, looking for a diversion to take you to 5 o’clock, and you are still absorbed in the thing at 7 PM.

I am writing this at 4:45 on a Friday afternoon. On the desk beside me is square, metal tin sent from Finland by the World’s Funniest Mycologist. Twenty years ago, we sat on a train together between Oslo and a tiny mountain village called Kongsvol, and he amused me and amazed me with his mastery of English clichés. Last Friday afternoon, he sent me a picture of the fungus that is sitting inside this tin. The picture was enigmatic but intriguing:

Mystery liverwort fungusThe fungus is the brown pegs; its spores are the tiny rods scattered around, like specks of dust. The fungus is growing out of a liverwort. Look at how big the cells of the liverwort (the glassy polygons) are compared to the size of the fungus (those brown pegs are bundles of probably about 50 thread-like fungal cells).

I haven’t checked the literature, but how many fungi could be known from liverworts? Mycologists don’t look at liverworts. Liverwortologists don’t look at fungi.

I want to look at this specimen myself with my own microscope, to get a better idea of what it is doing and what it might be, but what kind of vortex will it suck me into? It is now 4:48 and I am afraid.

To be continued

This is the Friday Afternoon MycologistEditor’s Note: So begins your acquaintance with the Friday Afternoon Mycologist (FAM). The FAM is a waggish friend of the blog, prone to crypticity, and avoidant of the limelight. He is not a made-up person, but actually exists in the physical universe outside the Cornell computosphere. His manifesto provides more clues to his mycological identity. He’ll be chiming in now and then with his curious finds. Stay tuned.



5 Responses to “ The Friday Afternoon Mycologist ”


Most people don't pay much attention to fungi, which include things like mushrooms, molds, yeasts, and mildews. Here at Cornell we think they're pretty fascinating. In fact, even the most disgusting foot diseases and moldy strawberries are dear to our hearts. We'd like to talk to you about fungi, so that like us, you too can tell gross stories at the dinner table. Afterwards, maybe you'll notice some things you would have overlooked before, and we think this could be good for the planet.

Kathie T. Hodge, Editor

Beneath Notice, our book of borescopic mycology.


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