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Tag Archives: fungi

More about Mycorrhizae

Have you ever seen an uprooted tree while walking in a forest? If so, you might have noticed strands of white thread-like structures attached to the tree roots and running through the soil. What you were seeing were mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi surround and bind almost all of the plants growing in an ecosystem together. Some of them, like the honey fungus (Armillaria mellea) are even luminous, glowing in the dark. The honey fungus is also the world’s largest organism (that we know of, at least); one specimen stretches for an astounding 2.4 miles (3.8 km) (Ferguson et al. 2003)! This fungus is attached to hundreds of trees, which are…

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Everything you know about taste is wrong

Tasting is something we do everyday but many of the things we think we know about taste are actually wrong. So let the debunking begin! Myth #1: You taste food with your tongue. Fact: Your sense of taste involves your tongue AND your nose. When you are sick with a cold, food doesn’t taste very good. This is not because your taste buds aren’t working-it is because your nose isn’t working. To test this, close your eyes, plug your nose and pop a flavoured candy in your mouth. Can you tell which flavour it is? Then unplug your nose and see if you know. What you are experiencing when you…

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Death caps, stinkhorns and honey mushrooms

Late fall is when a number of interesting Canadian fungi produce mushrooms. Some are edible, some are smelly and some are deadly. It was with great sadness that I read of the recent death of a 3-year old Canadian boy who ate a poisonous mushroom (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/death-cap-mushroom-victoria-boy-poisoned-1.3802245). It appears that he ate the most deadly species in the Amanita genus: the Death Cap (Amanita phalloides), shown in the photo above in various stages of development (image from Wikimedia Commons). His unfortunate demise serves as a warning to anyone who is interested in foraging for wild mushrooms: be absolutely, 100% certain of the identity of any wild mushroom before you eat it….

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The mystery of the moving cow pie

Usually cow pies are extremely uninteresting features of a prairie landscape (and one to usually avoid) but this month something funny was happening with them at the Nature Conservancy’s Yellow Quill Prairie that made me look twice. For starters, one day I saw a cow pie moving. As it turns out though, it wasn’t really the cow pie that was moving: it was a toad, a Canadian Toad (Anaxyrus hemiophrys) to be specific. As I stepped next to a cow pie in one of my research plots, the aforementioned toad made a short hop. It took me a few seconds to actually find the toad as it blended in with…

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