Monday, April 7, 2014

First Monday Mushroom: Violet Coral

The Violet Coral, Clavaria zollingeri, is a clavaroid, or club, fungus that is named because of its vibrant purple hued fruiting bodies.
Clavaria zollingeri 90973
Violet Coral, Clavaria zollingeri
Being saprobic, the violet coral is generally found near crops of hardwoods or around mosses, where it breaks down organics in the soil. Its distribution is wide, being found from Australia, to North America, to Asia, and rarely even in Europe.

Kingdom:....... ...Fungi
   Division:....... ...Basidiomycota
        Class: ......   ...Agaricomycetes
         Order:.....    ....Agaricales
          Family:.....     ......Clavariaceae
             Genus:....        ........Clavaria
              Species:..            ......C. zollingeri

Photo Cred:  By This image was created by user Dan Molter (shroomydan) at Mushroom Observer, a source for mycological images. You can contact this user here. [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fungal Word Friday: Sporangium

Spores are formed and spread a variety of ways. an enclosure in which they are formed is called a sporangium.... Its greek origin literally means Spore vessel.
A sporangium can be just a single cell or it can be made up of multiple cells. In some species of fungi can even be one of the most noticeable parts of its fruiting body.
Each of the black dots are a Pilobolus sporangium
Photo cred: By 19Adelheid (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fungal Word Friday: Spore

So here we are, about a year and a half since the first fungal word Friday and I have not thought to one of the most well known fungal words; spore. I rectify that today!

A spore is the reproductive cell of fungi. It can be unicellular or multicellular and formed through either meiosis or mitosis. Spores in fungi are so diverse that they can be used as an identifier of fungi for several groupings in the Kingdom.

Spores in asci of Morchella elata
Fusarium spores
Fusarium spores
Amanita muscaria spores
Amanita muscaria spores
Chrysosporium spores 160X
Chrysosporium spores

 As you can see from just these four randomly selected fungal spore pictures, they come in a vast array of sizes, shapes, colors, and packaging. Spores, while used for reproduction and dispersal are a complex part of what we all know is the complex life of a fungus.

Photo Creds:
By Peter G. Werner (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

 By Gerald Holmes [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

 By Madjack74 (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

 By Ninjatacoshell (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, March 7, 2014

Fungal Word Friday: Phialide

A phialide is an elongated and flask shaped (where it gets its name) projection rising from the vesicle in certain fungal groups, such as Aspergillus.

Aspergillus terreus
Aspergillus terreus sporting some mighty fine phialides.
Phialides extend out of the mycelium and serve as the basal cell for increasing chains of conidia

Photo Cred: Medmyco at English Wikipedia [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, March 3, 2014

First Mushroom Monday: Parrot Waxcap

The parrot waxcap, Hygrocybe psittacina, is a small and colorful mycorrhizal mushroom found in northern latitudes. It fruits in late summer and into autumn with a green umbonate cap that gains a yellow or pink tinge as it ages. The stipe of the parrot waxcap is a greenish yellow and the gills are green with yellow trim. The mushroom is only about 1-2 inches tall with a cap that only gets up to about 1 inch in diameter.

Hygrocybe psittacina 54530
Parrot Waxcap, Hygrocybe psittacina

Despite it's small size and coating of a mucus-like substance, it is still considered by many as edible.


Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Fungi
Phylum: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Agaricales
Family: Hygrophoraceae
Genus: Hygrocybe
Species: Hygrocybe psittacina

Photo Cred: By Dan Molter (shroomydan) (Hygrocybe psittacina (Schaeff.) P. Kumm. (54530)) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fungal Word Friday: Macronematous

Macronematous refers to conidiophore that are noticeably morphologically different from the vegetative hypha they arise from.

Macronematous conidiophores of Ramichloridium indicum

Photo cred:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fungal Word Friday: Annulus

One feature that is helpful in identification of many mushrooms is the presence of an Annulus. And what is an annulus? Here you go:

Amanita muscaria After Rain
Amanita muscaria with distinct annulus
Well, as you see in this picture, it is simply a ring around the stipe of a mushroom. A remnant of the mushroom's partial veil.

Photo Cred: By JJ Harrison ( (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fungal Word Friday: Mycetism

Simply put, mycetism is mushroom poisoning.

Responsible for countless illnesses and even deaths across the world every year, the most common cause of mushroom poisoning is plain old mistaken identification. While nearly a hundred species of mushroom have been determined to have some levels of toxicity, the most common deadly mycetisms are attributed to Amanita phalloides. Which when mature can be mistaken for some common edibles, and while still developing can be mistaken for a puffball.
2011-10-26 Amanita phalloides (Fr.) Link 177883
Death Cap, Amanita phalloides, across its development.
There are a long list of mycotoxins responsible for these poisonings and their symptoms run the gamut from death in a few days from liver failure, to respiratory failure, kidney failure, blood cell distruction, limb loss (that's right eating some mushrooms could potentially cost you an arm and a leg.. and your life.), to more mild gastrointestinal problems. Technically the sought after hallucinations and arousal effects attributed to "magic mushrooms" in the Psilocybe genus are symptoms of mycetism.
For a more in depth look at the mushrooms responsible for mycetism, head over to the List of Deadly Mushrooms entry page on Wikipedia.

Photo Creds:

This image was created by user Justin Pierce (JPierce) at Mushroom Observer, a source for mycological images. You can contact this user here. [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 3, 2014

First Monday Mushroom: Lion's Mane Mushroom

I thought that with last week's Fungal Word Friday being Teeth that it is only fitting to follow up with this month's First Monday Mushroom being one of the most exemplifying mushrooms for that term. So today I bring you Hericium erinaceus, the Lion's Mane Mushroom.
Hericium erinaceum on an old tree in Shave Wood, New Forest - - 254892
Hericium erinaceus on an old oak tree in Shave Wood
This mushroom is can be identified by its long teeth extending from a single (non branching) fruiting body, only easily mistaken as other members of the Hericium genus. It is a choice edible that can be found growing on hardwoods during the late summer, and is even cultivated and sold in stores.
Being found across North America, Europe, and Asia this mushroom has many common names from Lion's Mane, to Monkey's Head, to Deertail, to PomPom. In the end it is valued as food and even in some traditional medicine practices.

Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Subdivision: Agaricomycotina
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Russulales
Family: Hericiaceae
Genus: Hericium
Species: H. erinaceus

Photo Cred: Jim Champion [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, January 31, 2014

Fungal Word Friday: Pectinate

Pectinate means to have teeth like a comb.

While this is not solely a fungal word it refers to the shape of many potential features of a fungus and none more dramatically than the teeth of the genus Hericium. I mean look at some of these beauties:

Igelstachelbart Nov 06
Hericium erinaceus

Hericium coralloides - Male Karpaty I
Hericium coralloides

Hericium abietis 109093
Hericium abietis

Are those not amazing and Toothy... or Pectinate.

Respective Photo Creds: 
By Lebrac (eigene arbeit von Lebrac) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Hlauka (Pescan) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

By This image was created by user Jason Hollinger (jason) at Mushroom Observer, a source for mycological images. You can contact this user here. [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sloth Fur is a Full on Fungal Forest

ResearchBlogging.orgWhen looking for new antibiotics, researchers are sometimes forced to explore uncharted territories.I mean, if it weren't for Fleming's open petri dish exposing the greatness that was Penicillin, where would we be?
Now, a group of researchers has looked to a new and exciting location for what could be the basis for a whole host of future antibiotics and medical marvels... Sloth Hair. Well, not the hair itself, but the microbiome that grows upon it.

"You're welcome."
Sloths are basically slow moving forests of life roaming through the trees of much larger actual forests (of the tropical variety.) They have a two layered fur system, with a soft inner layer for warmth and comfort and a course outer layer the provides protection from the elements. This outer fur doesn't just provide this protection for the sloths though; their fur is teaming with organisms, both micro and macro.

Most who are familiar with sloths know they harbor a cyanobacteria that is commonly thought to provide it with camouflage. But that cyanobacteria, coupled with the thick course fur on a non-active back also makes for a great living place for roaches as well as various larvae and worms. And all those organics in the humidity of a tropical forest... You can bet there are tons of different fungi just aching to be studied.

And a team of researchers have done just that.

The scientists isolated and cultured fungi growing on the outer fur of Three toed sloths from Panama, which they then tested for bioactivity against a large range of human pathogens.

After getting the apropriate permissions, the researchers collected hair samples from nine sloths. Each hair was then cleaned of debris, cut into pieces and placed on media to allow for fungal growth. After two weeks the hyphae from any growths were transferred to seperate cultures for isolation. There were 84 isolates that were then ran through a battery of sequencing and phylogenetic identification methods to determine their taxonomy.

After isolation and identification, the team made extracts from each sample and used tem in bioassays against the pathogens that cause malaria(Plasmodium falciparum), and Chagas disease(Trypanosoma cruzi), as well as the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line to test for inhibition of growth. In addition the isolates were screened for antibiotic activity against 15 bacteria that cause human disease.

The teams results showed a few isolates that highly inhibited the malaria causing pathogen, and several that were active against either Chagas disease or the breast cancer cell line. However most of these biocative fungi only showed their activity in the assays against a single pathogen and even those identified to be closely related demonstrated different bioactivities. Of the 50 fungal extracts that were used in the screens against the less focused pathogens, 20 were active against at least on target organism.

While the study didn't delve into how these fungi contribute to the biome, and perhaps even the health of the sloth they grow upon itself; they did note that when compared ot that of humans, the percentage of fungi in the total flora growing on the sloths were much greater. Hinting that perhaps the fungi do play an important, yet uncovered role in the animal's well being.

The large number of fungal isolates in this single study that showed some level of bioactivity against pathogens demonstrates how important it is for us to learn more about still vastly uncovered Kingdom of Life that are Fungi. Imagine the extrapolated possibilities. Around 20-30% of the fungi in this study showed some level of bioactivity and there is a potential for almost 5 million fungal species yet to be described by science.

Sarah Higginbotham,, Weng Ruh Wong,, Roger G. Linington,, Carmenza Spadafora,, Liliana Iturrado,, & A. Elizabeth Arnold (2014). Sloth Hair as a Novel Source of Fungi with Potent Anti-Parasitic, Anti-Cancer and Anti-Bacterial Bioactivity PLOS One DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084549

Photo Cred: By Sergiodelgado (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fungal Word Friday: Aleurioconidium

An aleurioconidium is a condium, which is devleoped along hyphal branches, or on conidiogenous cells, and is release via a rupturing or lysis of its supporting cell.

Aspergillus terreus aleurioconidia
Aleurioconidia on Apergillus terreus

Photo Credit: Medmyco at English Wikipedia [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mycorrhizal Management of Atmospheric Carbon

ResearchBlogging.orgA study published in the January 08, 2014 edition of Nature looked into the relationship of Nitrogen and Carbon storage in soil when compared to atmospheric Carbon as it related to the competition exerted by mycorrhizal fungi. And their studied revealed just how important mycorrhizal fungi (the symbiotic fungi associated with plant roots) are in this relationship.

An important contributor to atmospheric Carbon is the decomposition of organics in the soil by free living microbes.  One of the key resources for these microbes is the availability of Nitrogen, which plants via their mycorrhizal marriages, compete actively for. This would mean that the more active and successful the fungi are at gathering Nitrogen, the less active and successful the free decomposers would be at breaking up organic matter. That, in turn, would lead to an increased storage of Carbon in the Soil.

Mushroom Amanita phalloides
Amanita phalloides (an Ectomycorrhizal fungi)
Since such a large percentage of plants are associated with fungi of one form or another, this relationship could potentially be hard to determine. Luckily for this study, there are multiple groups of mycorrhizal fungi. The Ectomycorrhizal fungi and ericoid mycorrhizal fungi (EEM), which do a much better job of taking in Nitrogen; and Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AM), which lack the Nitrogen degrading enzyme that makes that it possible.

To study the importance that the mycorrhizal relationship had on Carbon stored in the soil (and thus not in the atmosphere), this group of scientists compared the not only the two above mentioned groups, but also the difference in annual temperature, precipitation, net primary production and clay content, of multiple ecosystems based on global data product measurements.

Their results showed that the EEM ecosystems had a significantly higher storage of Carbon than the AM ecosystems.  When contrasting to the other data measurements, it was determined that the mycorrhizal type was a far more important controller of soil Carbon than the rest.

This means that the Carbon cycle (exchange of carbon throughout the environment) is in part managed by the mycorrhizal control exerted on decomposition in the soil. And as such, the broad implications that could be derived from this study are that changes altering the competition for Nitrogen will also greatly alter the global levels of Carbon in the Atmosphere.

Colin Averill, Benjamin L. Turner, & Adrien C. Finzi (2014). Mycorrhiza-mediated competition between plants and decomposers drives soil carbon storage Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature12901

Photo by Aleksey Gnilenkov ( [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mushroom Monday: Pleurotus ostreatus

Well, it has been a while hasn't it?

Today is the first Monday of the month and that was meant to be mushroom Monday, unfortunately I suck at blogging so I have neglected you all, leaving you in what I am sure has been utter despair.  Luckily I have the perfect oportunity to pick things back up today; for not only is it the first Monday of the month, but the first Monday of a brand new year! Talk about the perfect chance to start anew. So without further ado:

This month I bring you Pleurotus ostreatus, the oyster mushroom.

Pleurotus ostreatus - Pleurote en huître cropped
Plerutus ostreatus, the Oyster Mushroom

This famously edible mushroom is saprobic, growing in large shelf-like clusters on the sides of trees and dead logs. If they have much of a stem it is generally rudimentary with white gills running down it. The cap, ranging from a light pale to a dark brown, starts as a convex kidney or fan shape but flattens or even becomes slightly depressed as the mushroom ages. It's thick white flesh has a distinct aroma with a mild and pleasant flavor that leads to its popularity as an edible.

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Fungi:
     Phylum: Basidomycota
          Class: Agaricomycetes
               Order: Agarcales
                    Family: Pleurotaceae
                         Genus: Pleurotus
                              Species: P. ostreatus

Further Readings:,

Photo Credit:  Wikimedia Commons