Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Lurid Fungus

Hiking a trail above our glade I encountered these bolete mushrooms, tan to orange on top and slightly velvety on top.  When I bent it some, the stalk showed some blue-green streaking suggesting that it would show bruising.  With a small twig I wrote on the surface and sent it to Mark Bower.
"Your bolete is the “Lurid Bolete”, Boletus luridus. The tipoff is the orangish pore surface, the blue staining, the reddish reticulation on the stem, the reddish base of the stem, and the “root” at the stem base. Note that “lurid” doesn’t always have a naughty connotation!"
This is a common fungus which is found on both continents ranging across Europe and into China.  It is mycorrhizal, meaning that it grows on tree roots in a symbiotic relationship.  The fungus' mycelium extend far beyond the plant's roots to collect minerals in trade for nutrition from the tree.  This is far more common than we appreciate and is a field of intense research.

Click to enlarge - if you dare!

Lots of other common fungi like our beloved morels are mycorrhizal but some others are less glamorous.  Mark recently sent me the picture above of his latest find, Pisolithus tinctorius, aka. the Horse Dung Fungus.  If you think this is bad, you ought to see other versions at right as Mark photographed it.  This is not his usual artistic work.

An article in Scientific American had a lot of positive things to say about this fungus.  It has been found to partner with over 50 tree species.  Research on some mycorrhizal fungi has shown that the fungus can even exchange resources between trees of different species.  Michael Kuo in explains it this way:
"Pisolithus tinctorius is a mycorrhizal fungus that is not at all picky about its plant and tree partnerships. For this reason it is frequently used by foresters and gardeners to assist plant or tree growth (for impressive photos of plants and trees grown with and without the mycorrhizal support of fungi, see Mycelium Running, by Paul Stamets [2005]). It also grows well in poor soil, sandy areas, and so on, making it an even more valuable fungus for plant life."
Cut Surface - Mark Bower
In spite of the Horse Dung Fungus name, the cut surface of the fungus is actually quite beautiful, that is before it gradually transforms to what you saw above.  The cut surface shows pea-sized spore packets in gelatinous structure that will break down to brown dusty spores for wind dispersal.  The odor goes from fragrant to foul in maturity.  (Hey, what did you expect from a fungus named "dung"?)

My lurid fungus, Boletus luridus has now been renamed Suillellus luridus, just to make researching it more interesting.  There is much more than either of us wants to know about this mushroom at this Wikipedia link.

So what does this fly have in common with the story?  It is a horse fly (not to be confused with the horse dung) and we became blood "brothers" during the hike above as described in another blog.

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