Monday, November 4, 2013

Blue Velvet on a Stick

Terana caerulea- Mark Bower
If you are a mycologist or a fungus photographer (say that quickly five times, I dare you), hiking in the rain can pay off.  Mark Bower sent me this picture of a fungus he found at Bull Creek known as "blue velvet on a stick".   As you may already know, it was named fungus of the year for 2009 by the German Mycological Society.  If you missed this news, see below.

This is Terana caerulea, a cobalt crust fungus which is found world wide.  It is usually found under fallen logs and branches in damp hardwood forests, especially ash trees.  Crust fungi tend to cling to the surface of their substrate, their fruiting body is against the surface of the substrate rather than on a stalk.

I can't find the criteria used to determine the "Fungus of the Year", but can think of several good reasons for it honor.  For one,  treating T. caerulea with heat or certain chemicals, produces an antibiotic named cortalcerone  that inhibits the growth of Streptococcus pyogenes.

Of more common importance, crust fungi are "white rot fungi", breaking down the dead tree's cell walls.  It reduces the starches to simple sugars, proteins to amino acids, and lipids to fatty acids and glycerol.  Without these saprophytic servants, you can imagine a world without replenished soil where thick layers of dead logs smothered plant growth.  This provides sustenance for worms, beetles millipedes and all the denizens living under dead logs which then feed the next level of predator.
T. caerulea on a 4" log- Mark Bower
This is just one more reason for pausing to look under dead logs in the forest.  There is a whole world of activity going on there including a variety of fungi.  The metabolic activity serves to prevent freezing and on a cold winter day, it may be the only place you can find insect life.  Be sure to put the log back like you find it.  The whole microcosm living there will thank you.

Congratulations T. caerulea, an honor well deserved.

More discussion is at this Loyola site.

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