Cornell University


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.

Henningsomyces by Joe Warfel

Small Wonder

Upon lifting up a log, one often finds wiggly things, and they typically hog all the attention. But for the sharp-eyed, there are more subtle gifts. Lawrence Millman wrote this celebration of a delicately beautiful fungus you might find dangling under logs: Henningsomyces candidus. I wonder how many people in the world have ever seen it? Lawrence and I are fans of the small and odd, and Lawrence managed to sneak some into his splendid new mushroom guidebook, Fascinating Fungi of New England.

Moldy bread is cool

There’s nothing more fascinating than watching molds grow in time lapse. Or is there? This student post describes the inner life of Rhizopus, a remarkably busy and exuberant genus of molds. It is probably eating something in your kitchen as we speak! Today we admire the magnificence of Rhizopus eating your lunch, and introduce its surprising and extraordinary sidekick.

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.

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.


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.


Entries Comments

Or subscribe by email by entering your address: