Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Strange Fruit

     I was just enjoying one of my favorite blogs,, where "Nature Girl" posted photos and an account of coming across strange growths on a birch tree.  I  came across the same fungus ( inonotus obliquus) a couple of years ago on a beech tree, and mine had a fruiting body:  those light brown balls growing out of what looks like  a coal clinker.  Hence it's common name "clinker" polypore.  (Be sure to click on the photo to see the texture of these things up close.)

     Of course, I didn't know the name of it then, but I did know the name of a biologist whose specialty was fungi,  Sue Van Hook, and took her to see this thing.  She was quite excited, since it's not that common to find these clinkers in fruit.  Sue took some tissue and has succeeded in culturing the spores in her lab at Skidmore  College.  Apparently, this fungus may have some therapeutic use in treating cancer. 

     So you just never know what you might come across in the woods.  I  guess you can tell from my sidebar photos that I take great delight in fungi.   I just wish I could find a field guide for fungi as good as is Newcomb's for wildflowers.  Any suggestions?


John W. Wall said...

There's an Audubon field guide to mushrooms. A lot of folks out west use David Arora's "Mushrooms Demystified," and probably a lot of your genera, if not species, would appear in it. Mushroom ID is pretty difficult, more so than wildflowers or birds. Oftentimes you need a chemical reagent or microscope to clinch the ID. It's fun to learn, though.

NatureGirl said...

The 'shroom book I have (and realy like) is "Mushrooms of Northeast North America" (Midwest to New England) by George Barron, and put out as a Lone Pine Field Guide. It has good groupings, although some are based on spore samples, which you may just find delightful to do to clinch your ID.