Tag Archives: fungi

Stalked puffball-in-aspic (Calostoma cinnabarinum)

Here’s a gooey, mysterious find from my trip to Mohonk Mountain House over Thanksgiving. It took me a while to identify, but I think it’s a stalked puffball-in-aspic (Calostoma cinnabarinum), an ectomycorrhizal boletes that is associated with oak tree roots. It has a number of amusing common names such as hot lips and pretty lips. This one was growing around a pine tree, so perhaps they are flexible about their symbiotic partner. It’s also possible that roots from distant oaks extended to this location (there are some leaves in the frame). But I think the former is more likely, partly because I found a paper (Bautista-Nava and Moreno-Fuentes 2009) that says they grow in pine forests in Mexico. But that paper is in Spanish, which I cannot read, so I could have that wrong.

 Colin Purrington Photography: Fungi &emdash; Stalked puffball-in-aspic (Calostoma cinnabarinum)

After reading they were puffballs, I of course had to hike back to the site to confirm that. Sure enough, filled with spores.

Colin Purrington Photography: Fungi &emdash; Stalked puffball-in-aspic (Calostoma cinnabarinum) spores

I’d love to know whether the smaller blobs (most visible in the first photograph) have some supporting function. They apparently are part of the spore case and fall off as the fruiting body matures. But do they also mature into mini puffballs, too? If they don’t, I wonder whether they might act as egg mimics to attract vertebrates (squirrels? raccoons? birds?) that would then step on the larger fruiting bodies, releasing spores. Likely not, but I’m risking the speculation because they look exactly like fish or amphibian eggs, and most guides mention this similarity. In really weak support of this idea, some guide books say it is especially common near streams (where frogs, salamanders, and fish might be common). For those laughing hysterically at me, I would like to mention in my defense that fungi have evolved to mimic termite eggs on several occasions (Matsuura and Yashiro 2010), so it’s not completely without precedent. OK, you can keep laughing now.

Here is a trio of fruiting bodies approximately a foot or so away from the above location. They are in the process of emerging from the soil. The egg-like pieces are still attached underneath, I believe. Would be nice to capture the emergence and maturation on time-lapse.

 Colin Purrington Photography: Fungi &emdash; Stalked puffball-in-aspic (Calostoma cinnabarinum)

If you can share any natural history on this species, I’d love to know more. Please leave a comment or email me.

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Spider with really bad fungal infection

Found this clump of fluff a few days ago and initially wasn’t sure what it was. I’d assumed it was some sort of a gall, but when displayed on a big monitor I could see there were legs sticking out. Pretty sure it’s a spider parasitized by a cordyceps fungus. I’m guessing Torrubiella leiopus. But if I’m wrong about it being a spider underneath, I’ll retract that guess. Sort of looks like Sideshow Bob on The Simpsons.

Colin Purrington Photography: Fungi &emdash; Cordyceps growing out of spider

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Creepy blob of resin on a tree

While searching for yellow brain fungus on a hot day in December, I stumbled across this twisted little blob of gunk nestled in a bark crevice. At first I was all excited that it might be some sort of snow fungus (e.g., Tremella fuciformis) that was past its prime, but I’m pretty sure it’s just resin, gum, or sap — not sure which. But I’ve never seen resin with little spheres blebbing out, and nothing with a white membrane. It’s creepy. If you have more information or have wild speculation, please send me a note or leave a comment. Approximately 1″ long. Photographed at Lake Mohonk, New Paltz, New York.

I really had wanted this to be a slime mold … perhaps an immature Trichia or Stemonitis. If you’re a slime mold fan, please weigh in.

Colin Purrington Photography: Plants &emdash; Gum blob on bark

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Reducing disease transmission with signage

Just trying to do my part to make the world a safer place.  Print the PDF of the signage below and tape or glue in a bathroom near you.  In my experience, signs printed onto label paper look more official and thus have a longer half-life before being discovered by the bathroom signage czars. To see actual signage in use at a Swarthmore College bathroom, please refer to my previous post, “Dangerous bathroom design.”

Bathroom signage to reduce disease transmission

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Dangerous bathroom design

Flu season is coming, so here are some photographs to highlight one of my pet peeves, bathroom design that promotes disease transmission.  I post with the hope that somebody with true influence over architects will someday link to this post.  My pet peeve: bathroom doors hinged in a way that require people to touch the handle or knob to exit. I’m sure there are fire code reasons why architects specify for this, but it’s strange (remote risk of fire vs real and daily risk of disease).  I designed a graphic to highlight the issue:

In other words, when you touch the handle, you will most likely pick up viruses and bacteria left by the people who didn’t wash their hands (and those people might be really sick).  Really: research has shown that door handles have more bacteria than (gasp) toilet seats.  But even if architects are required by law to hinge doors to pull in, I think all bathrooms should be equipped with signage like the above, with perhaps additional verbiage about using a paper towel or shirt to open the door to educate people who don’t normally think about such things (you should do this if you don’t already; photo).

Compounding the above problem is the fad of equipping bathrooms with only electric hand dryers (“Saves the environment!”).  Because cheap hand dryers take about 3 minutes to dry your hands, many people opt to just exit the bathroom without washing their hands.  Or at least guys opt out…I don’t hang out in women’s restrooms that often.  This means that the handle or knob is going to get a lot more use from hands that are coated in microbial nasties. (Somebody needs to compare bacterial counts on handles in paper-free and paper-provided bathrooms…let me know what you find.) Here’s a graphic I designed for the machines:


So: my plea to people in power is for doors to be hinged so that mere pushing (e.g., with shoulder) allows exiting.  And for paper towels to be provided.  Or, if that is too costly, then for installation of signage that truly informs bathroom users about bad bathroom design and what they can do about it.  If you work in a hospital and have both MRSA and immune-suppressed patients, you definitely need signage like this. It’s cheaper than installing a door handle sanitizer, I’d wager.

If you like the idea of signage but are worried about selling it at your institution, here is a article to send to your colleagues and staff. Signage makes a difference, but edgy signage makes more of a difference.

If the Bathroom Signage Committee at your workplace is packed with people averse to anything novel, don’t worry, you can do it yourself!  Just download the door signage and hand dryer signage files (PDFs), then print onto 4 x 6″ paper.  I recommend 3M’s removable adhesive labels (#6200), which are essentially Post-Its you feed into your inkjet or laser writer. I love these sheets for stealth stickering projects when I don’t want to permanently annoy people. Then, of course, you need to sneak the stickers into the bathrooms at your workplace.  If you place them carefully and all at once, people will assume somebody in charge mandated the change and they will have a better chance of staying up.  Good luck, and have fun.

NOTE: the signage above was installed at Swarthmore College.  They lasted about a week before they take down by order from above.  Now they are back to zero signage, and are promoting disease transmission. Hey, I tried!

Please share with your friends, folks.

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