Tag Archives: fungus

8-year-old Twinkies

8-year-old Twinkies

I’d always hoped my 15-minutes of fame would be about something less embarrassing, but whatever.

Here’s my original Tweet, the first of 11 posts in a thread started on October 4th. Click to read the full sequence on Twitter.

At some point, my postings got the attention of Drs Brian Lovett and Matthew Kasson, researchers at West Virginia University. So I packed the Twinkies up and sent them via USPS. Please click on the Tweet below to read Dr Kasson’s thread on Twitter. My favorite part is the movie they made of the Twinkie being bored into with a bone marrow biopsy tool — the sound it makes is priceless.

The collaboration eventually resulted in a story, “A Disturbing Twinkie That Has, So Far, Defied Science” by science reporter Nell Greenfieldboyce that aired on All Things Considered. The Daily Mail also picked it up.

The story is not over, of course. The fungus growing on the center Twinkie (above) is apparently in the genus Cladosporium, but hopefully they will be able to determine the exact species. And I’m hoping that if they can’t culture the fungus in the mummified Twinkie that they’ll be able to sequence it to get an ID. I cannot wait.

And they are also working on the moldy Ho Hos I sent them.

Exobasidium ferrugineae

I found this fleshy, flower-like structure growing on Lyonia ferruginea (rusty staggerbush) at Archbold Biological Station (Venus, Florida). Heaths don’t make flowers like this, so I originally thought it might be an insect gall or phytoplasma infection, but I was wrong. After poking around online I think it’s Exobasidium ferrugineae, a Basidiomycetes fungus. Members of the genus grow in between cells of flower and leaf tissue, then in the Spring send hymenial tissue through stomata and other cracks in the epidermis, eventually turning the surface white with spores. I’d never heard of such fungi before. I’ve led a sheltered life.

Exobasidium ferruginea on Lyonia ferruginea (rusty staggerbush). Archbold Biological Station, Venus, FL, USA.

The above was the largest structure I found (perhaps 3 inches high) but there were dozens of others (see below) at the same location. If you’d like to know more about the species and genus, a good starting point is Kennedy et al. 2012 and references therein. In older literature the fungus was known as Exobasidium vaccinii (Burt 1915), but it seems likely that that species is host specific to Vaccinium vitis-idaea.

Rhizomorphs of honey mushroom (Armillaria)

Some photographs of Armillaria (honey mushroom) underneath the bark of a dead tree. The rhizomorphs look like plant roots but they are filled with hyphae, which sometimes emerge in a more classical mycelial fan. If you find these in your backyard, look for bioluminescence on a cloudy, moonless night. Just give your eyes about 20 minutes to acclimate.

Here’s the fruiting body, photographed at a different location: