Monday, May 21, 2012

There's a Fungus Among Us

I need to weed like...WOAH.
Dear Husband and I split the outdoor chores. I am frequently on campus during daylight hours, so things like raking and mowing have fallen to him. Also, when we first moved in, we tried to be ultra-environmentally friendly and use a reel mower, which requires quite a bit of upper-body strength, but that only lasted two years, in part because he insisted on mowing before the temperature got too hot, which was also before the dew had evaporated, so the blades got dull easily, and it took 1-2 weeks for the hardware store to send the blades out to be sharpened, by which point the grass had grown to epic proportions and was an even bigger hassle to cut once the mower had been reassembled.

My job is to do the edging and weeding, which I succeed at maybe once a month, and any planting, which so far is happening every other year. I would love to have a "real" garden, with lots of flowers, or even vegetables, but until someone finds me a garden fairy, I will spend my Marches and Aprils busy with schoolwork and the summers busy with my own work. I have therefore grown particularly fond of the bulbs and perennials gifted to us by church friends, because they are either ridiculously easy to grow or else ridiculously difficult to kill. Our across-the-street neighbors have just offered us a lilac bush they want to replace with roses, so if/when that transplant happens, I'll post pictures of that transformation in the back corner that never got finished when we redid the beds around the house a few years ago.

Sunday morning's pre-church chore was to make the front yard more presentable by pulling the weeds out of the cracks in the driveway and edging around the various poles and trees. After an hour and a quarter, I can happily announce that we are the proud owners of a double-wide expanse of concrete that is free of weeds! Everything is finally trimmed now, but the really exciting part was what I found in the yard while digging up those little weed trees that spring up over night: fungus. Or rather, fungi, as I discovered not one but three different kinds.

The first were the innocuous little cap mushrooms to the right, what I think are Conocybe albipes. I don't think I even bothered pulling them up, although a few years ago we had a large "blooming" of them, despite the fact that we were paying a yard service $300 to--essentially--poison the yard so that such a thing wouldn't happen.

The second was this orange and white specimen, found on the edge of the front bed. I don't know what it is but left it alone, too.

And then there was the third specimen. Hello, Phallus impudicus, which has a gross factor suitable for pre-teen boys. The mature form (top image) looks just like the name suggests. The cap is usually covered with a black slime, just visible in the shriveled one in the background, to attract flies. These were large and gross enough that I dug them up. Which is how I discovered the immature form (bottom image). They grow underground and then pop out of a "universal veil," which is then called a volva (the "skin" at base of stem in the upper image). You can't see it very well from the photo, but the whitish blob in the lower image is covered in a layer of mucus, so I felt like I was birthing fungal orcs in my own front yard. Maybe that whole "Eye of Sauron" incident on campus was more than just a prank...I'll let you know if they start amassing an army to march on the Shire!

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