Monday, March 22, 2010

Nature Guide: Tree Fungi

The harsh winter weather damaged many trees and shrubs along our trails. Now one group of organisms is ready to take advantage of the situation: fungi. Visible as mushrooms, puffballs and brackets, fungi thrive on leaf litter and decomposing tree bark, absorbing nutrients and turning wood into humus and soil. Our Nature Guide Jon Latimer tells us about the fungi shown in the slideshow below.

"Members of the fungi kingdom, which includes yeasts, molds and even truffles, may look like plants but are actually more closely related to animals. They lack chlorophyll and therefore cannot photosynthesize. Instead they depend on organic material such as leaves and wood to provide the food they need to survive.

"The species we are most likely to notice this time of year are bracket fungi (Polyporaceae). Also known as shelf or pore fungi, they grow horizontally out of trees or logs in semicircular shapes that look like shelving. Colors range from browns and whites to bright orange, red and deep mahogany.

"Most species are hard or leathery, which makes them very resilient. They can live for years and some species develop beautiful multicolored circles of color that are actually annual growth rings. A bracket fungi can range in size from a single row to dozens of rows that can weigh several hundred pounds.

"The underside of a bracket fungi is lined with rounded pores. These produce billions of tiny, dust-like spores that depend on the wind, rain or a passing animal to transport them to a new location. Only a tiny percentage of the spores survive to produce new fungi."

2 comments:

Paul said...

As always..... interesting and informative!
If only we take the time to stop and smell.... the fungi? Well maybe not!

-Paul

Karen Stray Nolting said...

Thank you, Paul W. As always, Nature Guide and I appreciate your comments. Hope you're feeling better. Let us know when you see new birds . . . and maybe fungi!