Everyone knows mushrooms pop up after thunderstorms, right? Japanese mushroom farmers sometimes deploy electric shocks to get their shiitake mushrooms to fruit. So, what would happen if you wandered around in the forest zapping the ground?
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.
Here at the Cornell fungal herbarium, we’ve been busy curating and digitizing the massive fungus collection of George F. Atkinson. His influential work in the late 1800s and early 1900s took mycology a big step forward. Here’s an intro to Atkinson and his mycological legacy, written by CUP’s Assistant Curator Torben Russo.
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.
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.
The very coolest mushrooms of all are the ones that glow, don’t you think? We don’t know, yet, how they do it, but perhaps there are a few different mechanisms, because we infer that bioluminescence has arisen multiple times over the course of evolution. Why? Well, we have some ideas. These mushrooms remain mysterious though: we don’t know exactly why or how they glow, but they do glow, and that is excellent.
The fungus Fomitopsis officinalis has a long history of use in North America and elsewhere, both as medicine and as a medium of ritualistic art. Read about Agarikon and its uses, and follow Fungi Perfecti President Paul Stamets on a successful expedition to find this rare mushroom.
Although surely many Native American peoples were experts on fungi, we have little knowledge of how they used them, particularly the more ephemeral mushrooms. Here’s a primer on three different bracket fungi (conks) used by some native peoples.