Cornell University


Explore your world with tape

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…

Rhizopus: bad hair day

Postal conks

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.

Pestalotiopsis spores

Moldy love song

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.

Spiral, by Paul McEuen

Fictional mycology

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!

Panellus stipticus, by its own light

Evening glow

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.

cheeky cheeky stinkhorn

A fungus walks into a singles bar

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.

stumpy ooze

Tree slime, stump flux and microbial consortia

It’s Spring in the northern woods, so other-worldly orange and pink slime is oozing out of hardwood stumps. What could this possibly be? Let’s ask the Friday Afternoon Mycologist! Today he explores some of these weeping trees, and finds a thriving yeast jamboree. He teams up with Molecule Man to identify the suspects, and together they shed light on a neglected bit of forest ecology.

my hand lenses

lately in the public lens

I’m always surprised at how little most people know about fungi. As you know, I love fungi very much, and I also like to teach. So I often find myself giving talks to introduce people to the weird and cool things that fungi do, leading walks in the woods, or (ahem), editing a blog about them. Here is a short compilation of web-accessible popular lectures, interviews, and stuff I’ve done lately. Also, some bonus advice on hand lenses.


Puffballs ate my mulch

In which a prodigious colony of puffballs consumes my pile of mulch. Yesterday I walked by them at the tail end of a downpour. The last raindrops were generating little snorts of spores like dragon smoke. Go ahead, give them a stomp or two, but don’t inhale puffball spores in excess, people, it will not end well.


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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