Friday, July 3, 2009

The Fungus Among Us

I am in the middle of reading a book called Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants Through Native American Stories and Earth Activities for Children by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac. It is one of a series designed to teach biology, ecology, botany, earth science, and "environmental and stewardship issues" (from the inside jacket flap) from a Native North American perspective. I am enjoying it, and learning a lot.

For example, I read all about fungus today. I did not know that fungus are not actually plants, but are commonly considered to be a group of organisms unto itself. I also did not know that mushrooms are not actually the fungus, but the mechanism by which the fungus spreads its spores (some reproduce sexually, some asexually - it seems to be quite complicated and I can't claim to fully understand it, and I'm not sure I really need to at this point in my life).

Given the truly ridiculous amount of rain we've gotten recently, we have an abundance of interesting specimens to look at in our yard - mushrooms of all shapes, sizes and colors:

The books gives instructions as to how to make a spore print, but I am nowhere near comfortable enough with my identification skills, not to mention Bess' ability to keep her hands out of her mouth, to attempt to pick a suitable specimen. So, we will just have to be satisfied with admiring them from afar, and thanking them for their work making soil out of dead stuff!

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