Good evening, friends,
I hope everyone had a pleasant halloween - I was a scarecrow. This week's mushroom is Bjerkandera adusta, commonly known as the smoky polypore, and we also get a cameo appearance from an opportunistic yellow slime mold. The two were found on 10/4/2021 in the ramble growing on dead serviceberry (amelanchier).
B. adusta is saprobic - consuming dead wood - and creates a white rot which means it primarily consumes the lignin in the wood. The enzymes used to break down the lignin have attracted interest for bioremediation purposes because they can break down complex molecules like textile dyes. The fertile surface (the underside of the mushroom), seen in the fourth picture, features pores. If you zoom in you can see these tiny pores which is where the spores are released. The smoky gray coloring of the pores is where this mushroom gets its common name. B. adusta is found on the six major continents, and can be found year-round, but in eastern North America it is typically seen in the fall.
Slime molds are fascinating. They are not fungi, and are in an entirely different kingdom of life: Kingdom Protista. A slime mold is basically a bunch of single-celled organisms that group together to form a larger organism. In many instances, the individual organisms will dissolve their cell walls and then all their organelles and nuclei are pooled together in one giant cell. It very well could be that all the yellow you see is just one enormous cell. Slime molds can move and consume whatever nutrients they encounter (using internal digestion like humans but unlike fungi). They usually eat bacteria and other microorganisms but in this instance it is consuming the B. adusta mushrooms. In some instances, like the one we have here, the slime mold can travel in multiple directions at once. When it finds food it strengthens and straightens the branches that you see in the first picture. One of the more iconic slime mold experiments involved placing oats in a similar manner to the layout of Tokyo's major suburban areas, and the results are in this video. The ultimate purporse of the slime mold is reproductive: to produce spores that'll germinate into more single-celled organisms.
All of these unique characteristics are hard to fathom. They challenge the idea that an organism is an individual and, in my opinion, suggest we're all part of an interconnected web of life and death. Slime molds definitely deserve their own Monday feature, and perhaps one of these days they'll get it. I don't know which slime mold this specific specimen is, but two of the more conspicuous slime molds you may encounter are Fuligo septica - the dog vomit slime mold (currently undergoing a name rebranding to the scrambled egg slime mold), and Stemonitis - the chocolate tube slime. If you're still curious about slime molds, reference 5 is a link to a great introductory podcast on the organisms.
Some people don't like November, but I find it one of the more tranquil months,
1) Kuo, M. (2010, February). Bjerkandera adusta. Retrieved from the MushroomExpert.Com Web site: http://www.mushroomexpert.com/bjerkandera_adusta.html