Saturday, August 26, 2017

Fungus Among Us

My goal with the fungus life cycle I am currently animating is to spark curiosity about these fascinating organisms. Fungi are truly amazing and they are everywhere. They play a vital role in the decomposition of organic matter and have fundamental roles in nutrient cycling and exchange in the environment. Fungi are often not noticeable because of their size. We are most likely to see them only in their fruiting stage, ie the mushroom that seems to appear from nowhere.

Seeking fungi on my favorite trail along the Blackwater Creek
Earlier this week I wanted to collect one more specimen of the bracket fungus I am animating and document other fungi that I found visible from the path. I went on an expedition to the Blackwater Creek Trail right by my house.

It didn't take long to find what I was looking for. These are bracket fungi but there are many varieties. I had decided I wanted to work with a bracket fungus with gills. These two bracket fungi below look very similar but the bottom photo shows one major way they differ. On the bottom one has pores and the other gills.

Top view
Bottom view. This is where the spores are released. The one of the left has pores and the one on the right has gills.
Even though I had the specimen I wanted, I just had to keep looking to see what I would find. Here are some more fungi easily visible from the trail.

More bracket fungi with the underside revealed

These were the most unusual. They were almost gelatinous. 

I am very pleased to have a meeting this week with Greg Eaton, a mycelium expert, who is a biology professor at Lynchburg College and the director of the Claytor Nature Center. My goal is to have a complete proof of the animation before our meeting to get feedback about the accuracy of my representation the life cycle.

Next time you are in the woods, at the park or even in your yard, keep an eye out for mycelium. It's there.

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