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.
In which we grow some hair for Homer Simpson, using Phycomyces blakesleeanus, a whiskery mold. Also, we update you on what’s going on behind the scenes at the Cornell Mushroom Blog.
Fungi have been harnessed by industry to make all kinds of things that might surprise you. It’s tricky to get through a week without eating something fungal. Today we bring you pullulan, with which you make edible films and other clever things. It’s a compound produced by a slippery mold, Aureobasidium pullulans.
The man with the mouldy car needed an answer fast. It was not a matter of the tax value of the mould or the car, just that law required that the car be inspected. The unionists being unwilling, he would enter the car himself. What should he do? I had a vision of him removing the entire seat and hauling it to my lab, and then me trying to flatten it so it could be stored in our herbarium. But instead, I told him…
The best gifts keep on giving. This artist’s conk (Ganoderma applanatum) came to me by post. It turned out to be quite literally full of surprises. Eleven unexpected organisms popped out of it: one other fungus, and ten fascinating beetles. Also, and this was really quite satisfying: when it arrived, I knew I had won the argument.
Here’s a tip on a very fine new book, The Genera of Hyphomycetes (2011, CBS). It is a world-shaking new resource for those of us who like molds. I think the authors must be geniuses to have pulled this off, it is that amazing, just don’t drop it on your foot. Also a mild exhortation to get yourself a microscope so that you too can see all the little things that run the world.
This week a fictional fungal villain is making life at Cornell pretty surreal. Paul McEuen’s new thriller, Spiral, has just been released, and not only is it set here, at Cornell, in Ithaca, and inside my Herbarium, it features a heroine who is inspired partly by, um, me!
What better to find on your bedside table in the middle of the night than a glowing fungus? It’s Panellus stipticus, and it has talent. If you don’t live near me in the northeast, where all the glowing is going on, have a look at our movie.
Dear Professor Hodge, please explain sexual compatibility in fungi. OK, here goes. I enlisted the help of a coauthor, and together we found this surprisingly difficult to write. Fungi are wondrously strange, and sometimes barely fathomable. And what could be more mysterious than sex? We’ve included a doozy of a video to improve your reading experience.