Monday, January 26, 2015

In the Midst of Death

The sunlit fungus on the log in the picture is proof that the death of a plant gives opportunity for life.  

Sunlit Fungus on Log Fla 2015
Fungi are an interesting family of living things.  As a gardener, I have been most interested in one member of the family, mycorrhizal fungi.  These fungi form partnerships with plants.  The fungi side of the partnership is to increase the effectiveness of the root of the plant. The mycelium of the fungi provides the host plant with minerals and other nutrients from the surrounding soil, and the plant provides the fungus with food in the form of carbohydrates.  While vital to the good health of a plant, mycorrhizal fungi are not usually seen. 

The lovely fungus you can see on the log in the picture is a saprophytic fungi, a member of the largest group of fungi.  Saprophytic fungi feed on dead matter such as fallen trees and dead leaves.  These fungi produce enzymes that will rot (or digest) the cellulose and lignin of the host.  Eventually, through the work of these fungi, the log in the picture will disappear and its components will re-enter the food chain. 

A commonality in all fungi is that they are not green.  Fungi do not have chlorophyll cells and, therefore, cannot photosynthesize sunlight into energy.  They depend on the dead host for the sugars and starches they need to live. 

The fungi enter the body of the host through thread-like, tubular filaments called hyphae.  The tip of a hypha grows or elongates and may branch out to form a mat of hyphae called mycelium.  It is from the mycelium that the fruiting body of the fungus arises.

The fruiting part of the saprophytic fungi is the part we see.  Fruiting bodies come in a variety of shapes from lacy growths like the fungus in the picture to the mushrooms we love to eat.  It is the fruiting bodies that contain the spores by which the fungus multiplies.

The grey fruiting part of the fungus on the log is what attracted me.  In sunlight, it has a beauty that belies the fact that the fungus lives on death.

No comments:

Post a Comment