» Kathie Hodge
Fungi are secretive and elusive things. It’s hard to get to know them. They expose themselves shyly, briefly, and often bafflingly. Like these twinkly earthstars, which are hiding more than one secret.
They may be taking over the world, but they have problems too: They have an itch they can’t scratch. Their dead wear fur coats. They nuke their competitors with poisonous blood. Multicolored Asian ladybugs are host to three different fungi. They’re all bizarre and interesting, but if you are a ladybug, you will have a clear favorite.
My students think of Russula species as cheerful mushrooms that are quite benign. They are often pleasingly colored, make good partners for trees, and have an interesting, brittle texture. Other than being practically impossible to identify, what’s not to like? But in eastern Asia, one Russula species kills half of the people who eat it.
Fungi can be so unfamiliar in all their diverse forms and weird habits. Here’s a beautiful coffee table book to help you grasp the enormous diversity of the kingdom Fungi.
Cesalpino would not have been surprised to find mold growing on his own book, published in 1583. However, he would have disagreed with us about the nature of fungi and where they come from. Also, if fungi have souls, where do they keep them?
On the origins and practice of the Cornell Hoot, a mycological finding tool. Executing the Cornell Hoot is sure to make you find more mushrooms, grow more hair, make more friends (of a certain kind), and stay safely found.
Sure, azaleas have pretty flowers. But who says gardens have to be about pretty flowers and tasty fruit? Cornell has one garden devoted to poisonous plants, and any mycologist-gardener might cherish a bed of rusty plants, smutted grasses, and these fantastic fungus-induced “apples.”
Woolly mammoths have been extinct in North America for 13,000 years. What caused their extinction, and what did they eat for a snack? These two questions are related to each other only by… Fungi! Also, bonus! we explore the many words for poo.
Remember that Donald Rumsfeld quote, on known knowns and unknown unknowns? This post is about a mushroom we know, Inocybe olpidiocystis, about which we really don’t know anything. It grew right here on the Cornell campus, once. One thing I can say for sure: I know I don’t know it.