A Fungal Oddity

Decomposition is a quiet and mostly hidden process. Those organisms involved in the business of decomposing generally tend to their job without a lot of fanfare. And yet these ecological heroes play an important role in the natural cycle of life. If it wasn’t for decomposers, dead matter would pile up, and new organisms would not receive essential nutrients for growth and development.

Some examples of decomposers include: certain types of worms, slugs and snail, but a majority are either bacteria or fungi (including molds and yeasts).

On a recent trip through the woods, with my camera in hand, I came upon an odd sight–A mushroom (the spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus), with the aerial filaments of a mold (a type of fungus) radiating from below the mushroom’s cap. 

Mushroom with Spinellus fusiger

I believe this is a parasitic pin mold known as Spinellus fusiger. If you look closely at the tips of each stalk, you will see that they contain minute, spherical structures. These tiny structures are called sporangia, and they contain the spores which allow the mold to reproduce.

This enlarged view shows the spore-bearing sporangia

This enlarged view shows the spore-bearing sporangia

When I first saw this mushroom, a picture formed in my head of a little fish being eaten by a bigger fish, and then an even larger fish eating that one. Only in the case of decomposers it is usually the smaller “fish” that eats the larger ones.

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10 Responses to A Fungal Oddity

  1. Bruce says:

    Nicely done, There is a whole, largely unseen, world of living organisms at our feet. Too few of us recognize that the upper soil layers are teeming with life. One reason is that these organisms are so small and often nondescript, or they’re are simply out of sight. The diversity of organisms in the soil and biomass is impressive and includes fungi, bacteria, protozoans, algae, nematodes, earthworms, soil dwelling insects, and other arthropods. The problem is that they are small, often microscopic, and go about their lives hidden from view. They make up the living (biological) component of the soil, comprised of mineral particles, decomposing organic matter, gasses, water, and mineral elements. These living organisms are an extremely important component of soil ecology. Healthy soils are those that contain abundant organic matter, and have a diverse population of native soil organisms, operating in a functional ecosystem. Basically, every organism has some role to play. The system begins to falter when the diversity of organisms is reduced by loss or organic matter, soil compaction, over use of pesticides, soil erosion, increased salinity, etc. The decomposition of organic matter by soil organisms greatly influence soil structure, soil fertility, plant health, crop yields, plant growth, and carbon storage. Soil organisms serve to release essential nutrients contained in the organic matter, back into the soil making plant growth possible. Energy stored in the material is used for metabolism and reproduction. The decomposition process also serves to bind up CO2, keeping it out of the atmosphere, where it would increase global warming –something we can all appreciate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. montucky says:

    I’ve never seen anything like that, but on a hike the other day in some places along the trail there was an almost overwhelming smell of mold that I have never noticed before.

    Like

  3. bgmCoder says:

    I have seen exactly this in a swamp near the woods at my parents’ house in West Virginia.

    Like

  4. bgmCoder says:

    I had a mycoligist at Saint Louis tell me that mine host mushroom was mycena haematopus and, indeed, the “hairs” were spinellus fusiger just like yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s a great find, and rare. I’ve seen something similar on a mushroom just once.

    Liked by 1 person

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