Wednesday, January 28, 2009


(my Pilobolus growing on horse dung in a petri dish)

Pilobolus is a very very cool fungus that grows on animal dung. It accumulates water in a large vesicle at the top of the stalk and uses turgur pressure to shoot off a packet of spores (a sporangium). These can travel up to 5 feet, and are shot in the direction of highest light concentration.

Here is a tray of horse dung we used to grow Pilobolus.
You can see the sporangia that have been shot off and stuck to the plastic covering.

"Beneath the black sporangium is a lens-like vesicle, with a light-sensitive `retina.' It controls the growth of the stalk very precisely, aiming it accurately toward any light source (movement in response to light is called phototropic). Osmotically active compounds cause pressure to build to more than 100 pounds per square inch in the stalk and vesicle. This eventually causes the vesicle to explode, hurling the black sporangium up to 2 metres, directly toward the light. The mucilaginous contents of the vesicle go with the sporangium, and glue it on to whatever it lands."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Today I saw these multiple ceilings in the sky.
It was strange to see just the lights from each floor, and to think of all the space created by layering and stacking. A tribute to technology: useful, but strange.
It's probably not as great to see the picture as it was to stumble upon it while walking around.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tuberia furfuracea

A few weeks ago Luke Bayler, a Phd student in the lab, said he had been seeing a lot of Tuberia furfuracea on campus. I said, "Oh, hmmm, I don't know that one..."

Then, Brandon Methini, A former Phd student from our lab was visiting and said "Oh, that Tuberia furfuracea poster, i remember that!"

Then I found a mushroom in the UW permaculture garden and brough it to Joe Ammirati and he said "Oh, you've got Tuberia furfuracea."


That is how I know I will not forget this mushroom.

It is small and orange-brown, turning pink-creme as it dries out (hygrophanous). These dried out about 30 minutes after I picked them.-see below-

The cap is translucent striate, meaning you can see the gills through the cap.-see below-

A very small, thin veil leaves remnant scales and flakes on the cap margin (edge).-see below-

Not all gills are attached to the stipe; there are two short and one medium length gill for every full length one. -see below-

Tuberia furfuracea is actually a species group, I found the cold weather species which comes out all winter as the snow melts.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stropharia ambigua

A common but impressive mushroom I will not forget is Stropharia ambigua. It's a cold weather mushroom (September-November) and I have seen it growing all over Seattle in woodchips and leaves.

The cap is cream-yellow-orange and the stalk is white. The cap is slimy/wet when young and broad/flat when mature. It has a white veil that often leaves remnants hanging from the cap margin.

It can grow very tall and is usually in large groups.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Schizophyllum commune

I am going to post about new mushrooms I learn, ones I have really learned and know I won't forget.
Here is one: Schizophyllum commune

I saw it growing on a small log in a garden bed near the greenhouse here at UW.

At first, I thought it was a lichen (see photo), but when I looked below, i found what looked like gills. I took it to Joe Ammirati, UW mycologist, and he said "if it has split gills, it's Schizophyllum."

(photo from wikipedia)
I looked, and the 'gills' did indeed look split down the center. He said they are actually fertile, spore producing 'troughs' lined up next to each other like canoes, giving the appearance of gills.

(photo from wikipedia)
I looked up Schizophyllum on wikipedia and it is "THE word's most widely distributed mushroom." Very cool.
That is good because wherever you live, you might find this cute fuzzy one.

(hint: It grows on cut logs and sticks from hardwood-not conifer-trees)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Obama is our new president!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tree of Life

Take a look at this preliminary tree of life!
(here is a link to a larger version)
It's based on whole genome sequencing, which is time and cost intensive.

What diversity!
Read all the names and you will find the tiny pink section in the upper left to span Giardia, Plasmodium, Oryza (rice), Saccharomyces (yeast), Gallus (wild chicken), Mus (mouse), Homo and Pan (chimpanzee).
If that small section contains organisms apparently so diverse to us...imagine the diversity of form, life history, energy use, protein synthesis, biochemical pathway, etc. represented by the other 85% of life.
What an amazing world...
Humans know very little. There is so much to learn, I love it.