Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae is a rust fungus known as Cedar-Apple Rust (sometimes abbreviated to CAR) that causes disease in Eastern Red Cedar and in apple trees. This fungus is unique among rusts because it produces large fruiting bodies. On cedar trees, the fruiting bodies resemble lumpy brown golf balls with long gelatinous orange tentacles bursting out of them. On apple trees, the disease causes more damage but produces only orangish spots. The complex life cycle of Cedar-Apple Rust means the fungus is easy to control, although these control methods resulted in a legal case that was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States!
how fungi relate to other living things
In October of 2016, I stepped out into my back yard and found it carpeted with medium-sized brown mushrooms. Apparently, I had nothing better to do that day than attempt to identify these boring nondescript mushrooms, so I sat down with a field guide and managed to key them out to Inocybe rimosa. This was a surprising result; most of the boring brown mushrooms that pop up in yards are saprobic, but Inocybe is a mycorrhizal genus. Since I. rimosa is mycorrhizal, there is only a very limited area in my yard that it can grow. This made me wonder, “Will it grow in the same place next year?” There was only one way to answer that question: keep track of where mushrooms appear in my yard. I logged all 227 I. rimosa mushrooms and waited eagerly for 2017, when I would map all the mycorrhizal mushrooms that appeared.
Pleurotus ostreatus, the “Oyster Mushroom,” is the quintessential pleurotoid mushroom: it is a gilled mushroom with a very short stalk that fruits from the sides of logs. Oyster Mushrooms are some of the best edible wild mushrooms; they are fairly easy to identify, they are meaty, and they appear in large numbers. Additionally, you find them in late fall and winter, when the woods are otherwise boring places for mushroom hunters. Although it grows on hardwood logs in nature, P. ostreatus will decompose pretty much any plant material, which makes it very easy to cultivate. As an added bonus, the Oyster Mushroom attacks nematodes. That’s one cool mushroom, right?
Wheat is the most widely grown crop in the world and is a staple food for billions of people. Diseases affecting wheat are therefore of utmost importance to food security. Some of the most destructive and difficult wheat diseases are the rusts. Wheat rust comes in three varieties: Leaf Rust, Stem Rust, and Stripe Rust, each caused by a different species of fungus. These all look slightly different but all cause rust-colored blemishes on wheat surfaces. The three species are closely related and have nearly identical life cycles. Despite this, managing the diseases is complicated and requires using resistant wheat strains, proper cultural practices, and fungicides.
Fungi appear in the news with surprising frequency. However, many of those stories do not provide any new information. Below is a summary of what we’ve learned about fungi from August through October 2017. Read below to learn about: ballistospory, chromosome evolution, fighting fungal pathogens (in humans, bats, and bananas), psilocybin, oil-eating fungi, and more! Visit the associated links to get the full story.
Boletinellus merulioides is an odd mushroom, both in appearance and ecology. The Ash Tree Bolete can be readily identified by its tube surface – which is only a few millimeters thick and looks more like a network of ridges – and by the fact that it fruits under only ash trees. B. merulioides appears under ash because it has a unique symbiotic relationship with a pest of ash trees: the Leafcurl Ash Aphid.
The Glomeromycota are unusual and poorly understood organisms. Fungi from this division rarely produce easily visible structures and cannot be grown without a plant host, so investigating them is very difficult. Glomeromycotan fungi are some of the most important fungi on Earth because they form arbuscular mycorrhizas, which provide essential nutrients to the vast majority of terrestrial plants.
Fungi appear in the news with surprising frequency. However, many of those stories do not provide any new information. Below is a summary of what we’ve learned about fungi from March through April 2017. Read below to learn about: C. auris in the U.S., aflatoxin-destroying corn, viruses defying fungal incompatibility, fungus-farming ant evolution, bat and salamander diseases, and more! Visit the associated links to get the full story.
Pleurotoid mushrooms are agarics that have a single common feature: they lack a well-developed stipe. Originally, I was not going to include pleurotoid mushrooms as a distinct agaric morphology. Their other physical characteristics vary widely and they belong to multiple unrelated taxonomic groups. To anyone classifying mushrooms, grouping them based on pleurotoid growth is decidedly unhelpful. However, it is a useful group from a field guide standpoint because it quickly reduces the number of possible matches. Eventually, I decided to discuss the pleurotoid mushrooms because they are often mentioned in field guides and because “pleurotoid” is a commonly-used mushroom descriptor.
Fungi appear in the news with surprising frequency. However, many of those stories do not provide any new information. Below is a summary of what we’ve learned about fungi from November 2016 Through February 2017. Read below to learn about: two-fungi lichens, the fate of bananas, battery recycyling, Crohn’s disease, orcas, human pathogenic fungi, and more! Visit the associated links to get the full story.