Cornell University


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.

Mycena chlorophanos

This bark glows in the dark! Bioluminescence in mushrooms

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.

Paul Stamets hunting Agarikon


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.

Sacred mushrooms

Mushrooms as Sacred Objects in North America

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.


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.

smells like maple syrup

Lactarius helvus, the maple syrup milky cap

Milky caps are distinctive mushrooms that “bleed” milk when you break them. So it’s easy to recognize the genus, Lactarius, but it’s often tricky to identify the drab ones to species. Here’s one that smells like maple syrup, or fenugreek. But although it smells like things you can eat, don’t eat it, or you’ll be sorry.

Boletus edulis

How to eat a bolete

King boletes are among the most delicious of mushrooms, so why is it that I am so bad at finding them? Some of their sisters are also delicious edibles; a few are not so good. This piece is not so much a guide to boletes, but rather an account of how to eat them.

a fungus in amber

Paleomycology: Discovering the fungal contemporaries of dinosaurs

Fungi tend to be small, soft, and ephemeral — properties that don’t exactly help establish a strong presence in the fossil record. But they certainly have been around for a long time (perhaps 4 billion years?). Here we explore some of the fungi of the distant past, including some molds preserved perfectly in amber for tens of millions of years.

lost dog

A veterinary detective story

Since dogs can’t talk very well, it’s often difficult to figure out what’s making them sick. We recently told you about Shiloh, a beautiful dog who died of mushroom poisoning apparently caused by Galerina mushrooms. Now Shiloh’s Veterinarian, Dr. Carolyn Orr, speaks about her role in determining the cause of Shiloh’s rapid decline.


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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