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Tag Archives: fungi

Travelling Plants of the Prairies

Plants and fungi were challenging organisms to include in our new Prairies Gallery because most of our 50,000+ Museum specimens are preserved in a flattened, dehydrated condition. Not very attractive! Further, because these organisms don’t move the way animals do, people don’t seem to find them interesting. But are they really the passive, immobile creatures that we think they are? Our new exhibit case called Travelling Plants and Flying Fungi,…

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What’s that stuff on my tree? A guide to Manitoba’s lichens

If you’re an observant person, you may have noticed colourful things growing on Manitoba’s trees and rocks. Although some of these organisms are mosses (especially near the base), they are more likely to be lichens.  Bright orange Firedot Lichens (Caloplaca spp.) are common on Manitoba’s elm and oak trees. Lichens are symbiotic organisms; they consist of a fungus (called a mycobiont) and an alga (called a photobiont). In some lichens…

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The Dirt on Soil

Soil is sometimes called “dirt”, as if it is something completely devoid of value. But without healthy soil, there would be no food, and without food, humans are doomed. We owe this thin layer of life, a respect far exceeding what we typically show it. Soil consists, not just of sand, silt and clay, but organic matter from plants, fungi and animals, as well as a diverse community of soil…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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)…

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