Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Ode to Spring
It is the end of the rainy season here in northern California. Although I am primed for the sun, I must pay my respects to the fungal kingdom for all its hard work these last five months.
we would be swimming in our own poop.
This little specimen is a cup fungus of some sort, maybe Otidea Alutacea, maybe not. Fungi are steadfastly mysterious when it comes to identification. Partially this has to do with the absurd lack of funds for mycology; there is not a single academic post for Mushroom Studies in the United States, even though only a small percentage of species have been given scientific names. Most of the other academic mycologists secure their funding by investigating ways to kill fungi on genetically-altered corn, which as we know, is crucial to the big picture of paving the world in corn products.
Then there is the mysterious, shape-shifting nature of fungi itself, which makes plain how arbitrary the concept of "species" really is. Fungi also perform helpful tasks for the ecosystem-at-large like detoxifying soil that has been radioactively contaminated.
In short, mushrooms are smarter than the average pile of poop. They are also sexy. Otherwise, how does this little cup mushroom manage to fruit in a pile of wood chips looking like it could inspire a Georgia O'Keefe painting?
So, thank you Fungus Kingdom. Good work.
Now maybe it will stop raining so I can get on with my life.