Saturday, April 7, 2012

Forget the Bunny, Here's the Easter Fungus!


This mushroom looks pretty dead, doesn't it?  But looks can be deceiving.  Now that I know its name and have learned something about its amazing properties,  I do believe that this fungus could replace the rabbit or egg as a symbol of resurrection and fecundity.

I found these dried-up mushrooms growing on a downed limb last week, and just two days later, while walking in an adjacent woods with a group of naturalists, my friend Ed Miller picked up another cluster just like it (all shriveled and dry) and identified it for us.  This is Schizophyllum commune, the Split-gill Fungus, considered the most widespread mushroom in the whole world, and one with the amazing property of being able to dry out completely and then rehydrate to keep functioning sexually time and time again.

Found on every continent except Antarctica (where there's no rotting wood for it to grow on), the Split-gill Fungus is one of the most studied mushrooms on earth, according to Tom Volk, author of the wonderfully informative mushroom site, TomVolkFungi.net.  Mr. Volk featured this mushroom in  a Valentine's Day tribute to one of the sexiest organisms imaginable, with at least 28,000 different sexes, according to mycologists' calculations.  The process is too complicated for me to repeat in my blog, but my readers can learn all about it (plus lots of other fascinating facts) by going directly to Mr. Volk's site.  Just click HERE and look for Fungus of the Month for February 2000.

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