Monday, September 20, 2010

A Study in Fungi

Under the elderberries

It was a cool, misty morning on Cedar Springs Farm yesterday. A gentle calm following the previous night's energetic storm that dropped nearly an inch and a half of rain, as well as bringing hail and incredible lightning. I even heard rumors of a tornado warning at one point.
I stepped out into the damp morning, camera in hand with the intent of capturing a few flowers in digital splendor.
Then I noticed some medium sized fungi growing in the hay mulch around the elderberries. So I began shooting fungi of all kinds.
Fungi are remarkable forms of life. They are not plants, but have their own domain. The fruiting bodies that we see above ground, the toadstool is the most classic form, are but the tip of the iceberg.
Below the surface, the fungi's threadlike mycellia cover large areas, especially where the soil or litter has gone undisturbed for a long time.
Fungi sometimes are disease-causing, but many are vital to soil and plant health. They live in symbiosis with plants, attaching to roots and in essence stretching those plant roots even further, sharing moisture and nutrients. When planting our fruit trees, berries and even many of our vegetables, we sprinkled in a special mycorrhizal powder to inoculate the roots with the proper fungi that will help them grow healthy and strong.
One of the reasons to move toward low- and no-till gardening methods is to preserve the valuable fungal mycellia. If you must till, do it in the spring, when the mycellia have an opportunity to grow back.
I did not attempt to identify any of these fungi. I simply wanted to share with you their beauty.

These little fairy cups (my name) crowd together.

Closeup of a tiny "fairy cup"

Tiny little "fairy bowls" complete with dumplings.

These remind me of balls of dough rising.

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