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Posts Tagged ‘fungi’

Photo: Georgi Mabee/RHS/PA.
A compost bin in the Cop26 garden at last year’s Chelsea flower show. This year, designers have been asked to include biodiverse elements in their exhibitions.

I was talking to Jeanne yesterday about her yeoman’s effort to keep in place the restrictions on those gas-powered leaf blowers we all hate for noise reasons or health reasons or climate reasons. Town meeting voted to outlaw professional landscapers’ leaf blowers by 2025 and personal ones by 2026.

But in the blink of an eye, landscapers, claiming inaccurately that no one had consulted them, acquired enough signatures to bring the issue before town meeting again this year. I asked where they got the signatures. Customers. It seems that most people in this often forward-thinking town can’t live without a leafless vista in front of their house and don’t want to put the lawn service to the trouble of getting the cheaper electric blowers that would save their immigrant workers from diseases and help the environment.

As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Given that her neighbors want leafless lawns, Jeanne is not focusing on the biodiversity trend that encourages homeowners to let the leaves stay and fertilize the soil. But the idea is taking hold elsewhere. Consider the displays at the Chelsea (UK) garden show.

From Helena Horton at the Guardian:

While many expect to see rows of bright flowers and pillowy blossoms at the Chelsea flower show, this year star gardens will also feature such biodiverse elements as fungi and a beaver habitat.

“Garden designers at the annual Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) show have been asked to consider the environment when making their entries. Though many of the traditional aspects of the show, including the prize flowers in the Great Pavilion, remain, many gardens focus on nature rather than conventional manicured beauty.

“For the first time, the gardening power of beavers will be displayed at the show. The Rewilding Britain Landscape garden, by the designers Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt, will demonstrate how the rodents tend the landscape and let biodiversity thrive.

“Beavers became extinct in the UK 400 years ago, and only in recent years have they been reintroduced to parts of the country. … It will feature a beaver dam, and a pool with a lodge behind, and show off a ‘riparian meadow’ of the sort beavers create when they partially flood a riverbank and attract pollinators and other wildlife. …

“Favourite trees of beavers, including hazel and field maples, have been chosen for the garden, as well as native wildflowers and plants that encourage and support trees such as hawthorn and alder, which provide winter food for many birds and support dozens of insect species.

“Rather than flowers, the designer Joe Perkins has decided to show off a range of fungi to highlight the ‘inseparable connection between plants and fungi within woodland ecosystems.’

“In between buying new roses and water features for their gardens, attenders will learn about the complex mycelium networks that connect and support woodland life. … The garden will also include species that are used to warmer climates, to highlight how our planting may have to change as a result of a warming planet.

“While most at the show, to be held in May in the grounds of the Royal hospital, Chelsea, usually focus on what grows in the soil, the dirt itself is the star of the new Blue Peter garden. The designer, Juliet Sergeant, is hoping to ‘open the eyes of children and adults to the role of soil in supporting life and its potential to help in our fight against climate change.’

“The garden will feature a subterranean chamber, which will show a soil animation, and soil-themed art by the children of Salford. It also features a roof-top meadow and barley field with common spotted and southern marsh orchids and a two-tonne tree on the planted roof, showing the wide variety of plants that good healthy soil can sustain. …

“Also at the show is a foraging garden by Howard Miller, for the Alder Hey children’s hospital. … The garden will heavily feature heather and bilberries. Miller said: ‘One of my favourite childhood memories is going to pick bilberries with my grandparents. My grandpa Harold had a habit of counting 1,000 bilberries into a bag before he would allow himself to talk to us. My grandma Mary and I would sit and eat the bilberries while he wasn’t looking.

“ ‘The smell of sitting in among heather and bilberries just transports me to that moment. So the takeaway I would like people to have is to give foraging a try, it’s free, it’s good for the soul and it’s a great excuse to connect with nature and each other.’ ”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Last night my husband reported that Massachusetts had just experienced its wettest July ever, breaking the record set in 1938.

Now, if you live in New England, you have no need to be told what happened in 1938. Most of us call it the Hurricane of ’38, and many books have been written about it. The one I loved had the awesome title A Wind to Shake the World. My mother experienced that wind firsthand.

But today’s post is not about hurricanes: its about wet weather and what follows it. Because lately on my walks, I’ve been noticing an unusual number and variety of mushrooms blooming in the wet. (Does one say “blooming” in regard to mushrooms? Let’s say they are “mushrooming.”)

I’ve blogged about mushrooms before. Last year’s Love for Fungi post described how these natural wonders “knit Earth’s soils into nearly contiguous living networks of unfathomable scale” and may ultimately save the planet.

I love the idea of anything knitting the world together without boundaries. Just imagine how wonderful it would be if we took the concept a step farther and began advocating for earthworm diplomacy — a kind of interaction among nations recognizing that certain aspects of borders are about as meaningless for humans as they are for an earthworm. Consider Covid. Consider climate change.

Anyway, here are the kinds of mushrooms our wettest July has engendered: speckled, yellow, red, blue , bizarre … I wind up with a window photo of something Lena Takamori, a mushroom-inspired artist, created.

Would love to see mushrooms from where you live.

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Here’s a recent story about how fungi, of all things, may be affecting global warming.

From ScienceDaily: “Microscopic fungi that live in plants’ roots play a major role in the storage and release of carbon from the soil into the atmosphere, according to a University of Texas at Austin researcher and his colleagues at Boston University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The role of these fungi is currently unaccounted for in global climate models. Some types of symbiotic fungi can lead to 70 percent more carbon stored in the soil.

” ‘Natural fluxes of carbon between the land and atmosphere are enormous and play a crucial role in regulating the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and, in turn, Earth’s climate,’ said Colin Averill, lead author on the study and graduate student in the College of Natural Sciences at UT Austin. …

“Soil contains more carbon than both the atmosphere and vegetation combined, so predictions about future climate depend on a solid understanding of how carbon cycles between the land and air.

“Plants remove carbon from the atmosphere during photosynthesis in the form of carbon dioxide. Eventually the plant dies, sheds leaves, or loses a branch or two, and that carbon is added to the soil. The carbon remains locked away in the soil until the remains of the plant decompose, when soil-dwelling microbes feast on the dead plant matter and other organic detritus. That releases carbon back into the air. …

“Where plants partner with [ecto- and ericoid mycorrhizal] (EEM) fungi, the soil contains 70 percent more carbon per unit of nitrogen than in locales where [other] fungi are the norm. The EEM fungi allow the plants to compete with the microbes for available nitrogen, thus

reducing the amount of decomposition and lowering the amount of carbon released back into the atmosphere.

More.

Photo: Colin Averill
The fruiting body of a fungus associated with the roots of a Hemlock tree in Harvard Forest.

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There was more to Beatrix Potter than Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail. Her meticulous drawings of flora and fauna made serious contributions to the science of the day.

Maria Popova at Brain Pickings shares Potter’s mushroom drawings and more.

“At a time when women had no right to vote and virtually no access to higher education, very rarely owned property and were themselves considered the property of their husbands, Potter became a commercially successful writer and artist, using the royalties from her books to purchase her famed Hill Top Farm, where she lived simply and with great love for the land for the remaining four decades of her life. …

“Linda Lear’s altogether magnificent Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature (public library) — [is] by far the best book on Potter and one of the finest biographies ever written, Lear’s prose itself a supreme work of art.

“A formal scientific education was virtually inaccessible to women, except for the rare Ada Lovelace or Maria Mitchell, and membership in scientific societies was strictly reserved for men. But Potter’s scientific work was exceptional in that she deliberately tried to penetrate the very institutions that dismissed women’s scientific labor solely on the basis of gender. …

“By her early twenties, Potter had developed a keen interest in mycology and began producing incredibly beautiful drawings of fungi, collecting mushroom specimens herself and mounting them for careful observation under the microscope. … Lear writes:

Beatrix’s interest in drawing and painting mushrooms, or fungi, began as a passion for painting beautiful specimens wherever she found them. She never saw art and science as mutually exclusive activities, but recorded what she saw in nature primarily to evoke an aesthetic response. She was drawn to fungi first by their ephemeral fairy qualities and then by the variety of their shape and colour and the challenge they posed to watercolour techniques. Unlike insects or shells or even fossils, fungi also guaranteed an autumn foray into fields and forests, where she could go in her pony cart without being encumbered by family or heavy equipment.

More here.

Art: Beatrix Potter
Flammulina velutipes (Armitt Museum and Library)

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