Saturday, November 28, 2009

November 26, 2009

Most of the snail mail we get is totally useless
- essentially junk mail, trying to sell us something or
bills to pay.  So it was a real pleasure to open a letter from Japan this morning
and find an order for Nag Raj's big red masterpiece on Coelomycetes (over 1,000 pages). 
Of course I have the world supply in my basement, and am sure I'll never run out. 
But another one was dispatched across the Pacific Ocean today.
The postage was scary - over $60, even by surface.

Now we're thinking about fungi, let me turn to the local macromycota.
When I left for Virginia on 2nd November, the park next door was full of mushrooms:
literally tens of thousands of little Mycena all through the grass,
with a number of partial fairy rings of Marasmius oreades (the fairy ring mushroom)
scattered around, and occasional groups of meadow mushrooms
(Agaricus campestris), which we would eat if there weren't so many dogs
peeing and so on all over the place...At that time our lawn was devoid of fungi.

When I came back on 14th, things had changed, after several days of heavy rain.
In the park, no mushrooms were to be seen anywhere (I quartered the acreage looking for them).
But our back lawn, overlooking the ocean, was crowded with them. 
Many were of Armillaria, a genus that is often involved in killing trees.
Not all species are pathogens, and I'm hoping this is one of the harmless ones
- don't want to lose those lovely Douglas Firs along the edge of the cliff
which frame our view so beautifully. There were also some boletes, species of Suillus,
as well as the gilled Tricholoma and Cortinarius: all three genera are ectomycorrhizal symbionts
of those same trees.

It seems paradoxical that there should be such a reversal, but as usual there must be a reason for it.
The only one I can suggest off the top is that our soil under the lawn (imported by us)
is very sandy, and took much longer to become saturated than the clay in the park.
It is quite apparent that mushrooms do not like soil saturated with water.
I remember one of the years (probably 20 years ago) that I taught a field course in Algonquin Park, Ontario.
I drove up a day or so early, so I could walk a few of the trails and renew acquaintance with the fungi.
Well, it had been pouring for several days, some of the trails were flooded by the rivers,
and those I could access had very few fungi.  Fortunately, things gradually improved over the next two weeks,
but the students may have been happy they didn't have as many mushrooms to identify as in previous years.

Dedicated as usual to my young mentor!

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