I took this video two years ago, tried to make it into a GIF, gave up, then forgot about it. It’s a soupy Scleroderma.
An intense bloom of Pycnoporus sanguineus, a reishi lookalike that has also seen traditional use as a medicine. Aboriginal Australians reportedly chewed this fungi to cure mouth ulcers and other oral disease. Extracts from this mushroom have industrial applications in dye degradation.
By the end of next semester, I will probably be able to quickly identify most of the lichens in the area. For now though? Just enjoying the diversity.
Darwin’s fungus (Cyttaria darwinii)
1-14 at Omora Ethnobotanical Park on Navarino Island, Chile
Cyttaria darwinii is a fungus that parasitizes southern beech trees. I also may have taken a nibble of it when I encountered it in Chile…
A few have asked about the edibility, and to that I respond: it is not toxic, but as far as I know it’s not a choice edible or anything. And because I’m a monkey, I was like, “Cool! I can put this in my mouth then.”
The fungus has traditionally been used for food, and is still a valuable food item. Its importance in this respect was already known to Charles Darwin who discussed it in ‘The Voyage of the Beagle’ published in 1839. He wrote: “In Tierra del Fuego the fungus in its tough and mature state is collected in large quantities by the women and children, and is eaten un-cooked. It has a mucilaginous, slightly sweet taste, with a faint smell like that of a mushroom. With the exception of a few berries, chiefly of a dwarf arbutus, the natives eat no vegetable food besides this fungus.” Indeed, from the 1760s onwards, sailing ships used the fruitbodies as food supplements.
A forgotten reishi, picked up from a porch after abandonment many years ago. Incredible how resistant to decay these are; it’s truly a testament to the antimicrobial properties of the mushroom.