Mary Beth Writes

2-22-2023

F is for Fungi!

There’s so much more going on here than we thought when we thought we knew what was going on here.

Fungi? Fungus? Fungi refers to the whole shebang of multi-cellular organisms that have a nucleus plus a single wall cell made of chitin. Fungus is the term when talking about one branch of the ginormous fungi family. There are 144,000 known species of Fungi, which includes yeasts, rusts, smuts, mildews, molds, and mushrooms.

We hiked at Scuppernong this weekend and this is, I think, a smut.

Fungi are more like animals than plants. Plants have chlorophyll so they can make their own food. Fungi, like us, have to go out and find their supper. They do this by sending strand-like parts of their body called hyphae (‘hi-fee’) directly into their food. You’ve seen this when you dig in the dirt; hyphae are those thin white strands. Fungi secrete chemicals through the hyphae to break organic material down into simpler molecules i.e., a fungi-ready juice they can absorb directly into their cells.

Chitin is an important word in fungi-world. It’s the stiff stuff that forms fungi’s cell walls. It holds in water as it gives hyphae the structure and strength needed to push into material that weighs far more than a skinny length of hyphae. Chitin is also the stuff that makes lobsters and other crustaceans hard. It’s in the exoskeleton of bugs. Chitin is what makes whiskers (!) and is similar to the keratin that makes our hair.

 Chitin is utilized in many products but this is the one that caught my attention. Chitin is very strong for a certain amount of time but then dissolves. They use it to make self-dissolving surgical thread!

 What does fungi eat? Everything! Without fungi we would be crushed under all the stuff that has ever grown and expired. Example, these whole wheat rolls we forgot to eat. (Oops) Little mold animals are doing earth a favor, trying to turn them from yuck to energy.

 Scientists know (since 2011) some fungus families can digest plastic; some even do this in oxygen-free environments such as garbage dumps. Fungi is an option to address the unfathomable mountains of plastic garbage in our environment – as soon as we prioritize the problem and fund the development of ways to implement this solution. Some fungi can clean up oil spills and toxic chemicals. Radiation-loving mushrooms were used to clean up the nuclear disaster in Fukushima Japan, after guys found fungus growing inside the ruined reactors.

The body of a fungus is made of the many threads of hyphae which are called the mycelium – which functions as both stomach and brain. The mycelium is aware of its surroundings. It responds to changes in its environment. As conditions change, mycelium produces strong antibiotic and antiviral compounds to protect itself and ensure its existence – like penicillin which is fungus protecting itself from bacteria.

And what are mushrooms, you ask? They are the “flower” of fungi. The plant is underground and growing but it sends up mushrooms to disperse spores. Some mushrooms can cure some cancers. Others can kill you in 10 seconds. Let the picker beware.

…..

Most of us were raised in the worldview that life on earth was organized by hierarchy. There were the unimportant flotsam and jetsam of the natural world such as bugs, small boring brown animals, weeds, dead trees, unimpressive scrap trees. Certainly, fungi were not much more than dirt. Important creatures were big flashy animals – lions and tigers and bears, oh my. And of course, the most essential of all earth’s beings – humans.

We understood nature the way we understood European political structure. The powerful king, his (sic) lords and lieges, soldiers, religious males, rich mega business men. Women of childbearing age. The children of the men listed above as soon as the women are done raising them.

Next down the hierarchical chain from humans were the big animals – probably why “trophy hunting” became a thing. Important people killing important animals feeds into this toxic loop.

At the bottom of nature’s hierarchy were plants, debris, waterways, the plentiful birds and animals and bugs and bees. And then the gooey fragile boring things that live under rocks and in the soil.

 We are beginning to understand this fraught joke. Remove humans and the earth will be fine and probably better.

 Remove fungi and life on earth will collapse.

There’s so much more going on here than we thought when we thought we knew what was going on here.

 Hyphae spread over v-a-s-t areas underground. They meet other funguses. They meet roots of other plants and trees. Always hyphae are “communicating” via chemistry. Fungi knows what it needs to thrive, it grows outward and forward to find and take in those nutrients. It chemically reads the roots of the plants it meets and bypasses as it grows. It “knows” what those plants and trees are taking in and secreting and chemically shares and exchanges that information with all the roots it meets – allowing earth’s plants and trees and forests and deserts to amplify and modify growth and defenses. This fungal network enables plant roots to access 100,000 times more soil than those plants could chemically assess alone.

Remember, these zillions of teeny intersections are going on all the time everywhere. These intersections promote healthy growing, warn of toxic sites, bring nutrients to each living thing via the plants and then the animals that eat the plants.

Knowing the health of the fungal network is one of the most powerful ways of understanding the health of earth. To that end, right now there is a world-wide project to map the current state of the fungal network in many vulnerable places on earth.

Click here to read more about the world wide fungi mapping project which is far more interesting than you think. 

 There’s so much more going on here than we thought when we thought we knew what was going on here.

 

 

Tags

Add new comment

CAPTCHA

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Three Things / Story, Eclipse, Brando

1. I scheduled my Substack story to go out at 8AM this morning. I just looked to see why it didn’t show up and it says it is going to be sent at 8:49 tonight. I’m going to leave it like that. Maybe 9PM on a weekend night is a good time to send short fiction. Let me know if you have an opinion.

2. I read this quote by Marlon Brando who said this early in his career. “I’m not afraid of anything and I don’t love money.”

Even though this is probably not exactly true of me and you, I do love the bravado.

Peace Like a River / Book Report

4/3/2024 She Writes

I just finished reading Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and I am going to talk about it for a little bit before I forget how profoundly interesting and evocative this book was and is, at least to me.

I get emails from Boswell Bookstore (2559 N Downer Ave in Milwaukee). They host artist events pretty often and Monday evening, April 15th Len and I will be there for the Author Evening with Leif Enger. You can look up more of the details if you are interested. (Tickets are free but you need to reserve them.)

My Grandkids & 'Wandering Stars'

4/1/2024

The past month has been jam-packed. The week in Mineral Point. Len’s two-day seminar in Chicago. Last week we had various grandkids here for three overnighters and yesterday our family came to Easter dinner here in our house which was clean after a week with grandkid overnighters so you know that was a piece of cake. Len smoked two hams (yes, hard to keep them lit) and I made the largest amounts of from-scratch scalloped potatoes plus macaroni and cheese that I have ever made. As in, I grated four pounds of cheese Saturday afternoon. “On Wisconsin.”

Ghost on a Post / Poetry with Third Graders

3/12/2024

This is what I texted to Len this afternoon after I finished the poetry class with third graders. “I’m done and back. The kids were great and I’m a limp washrag, Teaching forty 8-year-olds for 90 minutes is way more energy than Everest.” I then drank half a beer (I NEVER drink in the afternoon) and fell asleep until the Mineral Point afternoon ‘change of shift siren’ shrieked for several minutes. It’s been a full day.

How 2 Write a Poem (3rd grade edition)

3/7/2024

Next week is my Writers Week at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, WI. I won this when my story “How Crow Got Out of Jail” (Read Here) won first prize in the 2023 Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring contest for short fiction.

Winning that contest motivated me to open my Substack account. So far I’ve published 17 stories and only published once twice. (Who noticed that?)

Tag Cloud

9/11 17 minutes 500 Words A-Z AARPtaxes AAUW abortion Acadia accident Accountable Advent aging Alaska animals anniversary antibiotics antlers apples appointments Arrows art Ashland August Augustine aunts baby Badlands balance Baldwin Barbara Barkskins Beauty Becky Becoming Esther Berry birthday bistro BLM Blue BookReport books Boxing Day boy scout Bread breakfast BreakfastClub BrokenDays BuyAngry Cabeza de Vaca Cahokia calendars Canada canoe cat romance cats cello Chicago China Choosing Christmas cilantro Cinnabuns circus climate change clouds Clowns clutter Colonialism comet ComfortZone CommonSense community consumerism Cops Corvid-19 Courage Covid-19 Crazy creditreport creosote crime CrimeShows danger DarkRiver death Debate December DecisionFatigue decluttering deer democracy dentist depression Destination Today Detroit Didion disasterprep distraction dogs dollhouse Dreams Duty Easter eBay Echoes Eclipse election EmilyDickinson eschatology Esquipulas exit polls eyes Fable FairTrade family farmer Fata Morgana ferns firealarm Fitness Five Flatbread Flexible flu Food Pantry Fort de Chartres frame Franc FrancGarcia friends frugal FrugalHacks Frugality frustration Ft.Ticonderoga fungi fusion Galena Gannets Garden GarfieldParkConservatory Gaspe genius geode GeorgeFloyd gerrymandering ghosts gifts girls GNTL gorgons goulash GovernorThompsonStatePark Graduation grandkids granola Grief groceries Guadalupe Guatemala gum guns Hair happiness HaveYouEver? hawks healthcare Healthinsurance hearings heart heaven HelleKBerry heroes hike History home HomeRepair Honduras Hope HowCrowGotOutofJail humor hurricane Ice Cream idiosyncrasy igloos impeachment Innkeeper Instincts integrity InternetPrivacy Interview InviteMe2Speak James Baldwin Jan 6 Janus jewelry JoyceAndrews Judy JulianofNorwich Jump justice Karen kites ladder Lady Lamb LangstonHuges LaphamPeak laundry LeeLeeMcKnight lemming Len lies Light Lincoln Little Women LockedOut Loki loneliness LouisArmstrong Love Ludington Macaw macho Manitoulin MargaretFuller Maria Hamilton Marquette marriage Marsden Hartley masks Mayan MayaWorks meme Memories men Middlemarch MilesWallyDiego MindfulChickens MineralPoint Mistakes MLK moon Mother MothersDay mounds mouser movies museums must-haves Mustapha NAMI Nancy Drew Newfoundland New Mexico New York City Nomadland nope observation OBUUC Ocotillo OnaJudge ordinary OscarRomero osprey Outside oximeter Parade mayhem PastorBettyRendon Paul Hessert PDQ Penny persimmon photos Pi Pies pineapples pizza poetry Preaching privacy procrastination Protest QE2 Quern quest Questions Rabbit holes racism reading recipe recipes recommendations religion Remember RepresentationMatters Reruns responsetoKapenga Retirement rhubarb Ricky rime RitesofPassage romance Rosemary Ruether Roses Roti Ruth SamaritanWoman Sanctuary Sandhillcranes Santuario de Chimayo SaraKurtz SaraRodriguez satellites sci-fi ScottSimon sculpture Seasons Sermon ServantsoftheQuest sewing Shepherd Shontay ShortStory shoulder sick sickness Slower snow Social Security SofritoBandito solstice South Dakota SpaceShuttle spirituality spring square feet St. Louis staining stars stele Stereotypes stories StoryStarts stream monitoring stress SUBSTACK Survival swim Talent taxes teenager thankgsgiving Thanksgiving TheBridge TheMaid ThePerpetualYou therapy ThreeBillBoards Three Thing Three Things ThreeThings TidalBore TimeBeing toddler Tom tortillas Trains travel Traveler Tubing turtle Twilight Bark Tyrone Ukraine Ulysses Grant Umbrella UnrelatedObservations Up North urgency vacation vaccine Valentines vanilla Vietnam vision VivianWokeUpDrowning Vocabulary vole volunteer WalkingAndSeeing Wampanaog war WarsanShire weather weaving Webs wedding whines WhyAttendChurch Wiley Willa WillaCather Wisteria Won! Wonder words Xeriscape Yellowstone Zebra
Ad Promotion