Thursday, July 18, 2013

Photographing Florida Fungi

Mighty Mushroom
I have a long interest in fungi and fungi photography. Some of them are edible and very nutritious and some of them are deadly. They range in size from microscopic yeasts and molds to giant fruiting bodies weighing many pounds. Invisible to us most of the time, they occasionally send our fruiting bodies for the world to see and to spread their spores.

Brown Wood Mushrooms

Fungi are their own kingdom distinct from plants, animals and bacteria but most closely related to animals. Chitin, the same material as insect exoskeletons, makes their cell walls rigid, unlike plants which use cellulose for this purpose.
Yellow Mold
Fungi require carbon compounds from living organisms for their metabolism. They actually live inside their food and grow by extending hyphae, very thin thread-like structures. An interconnected network of hyphae looks like a ball of limp yarn and is called a mycelium.
Blue Parasol Mushrooms
Fungi actually move, growing into new areas of food and dying off in the depleted areas. When ready to reproduce they send forth fruiting bodies to produce spores. All of the photos illustrating this post are of fruiting bodies. The mycelium are generally underground or inside wood or fruit.
Before Dawn

 Because fungi have a very large surface area and relatively small volume they are very efficient at extracting necessary nutrients from the environment. Fungi are decomposers and play an important role in the world-wide carbon cycle and in recycling organic nutrients.
Shelf Mushroom
As with most living things on earth, no one knows how many species of fungi there are but 80,000 are known to science. I do know that many of them live in Florida and can be found almost everywhere. Just go for a walk in any park, wooded area or swamp and look carefully.
White Wood Mushroom
I have seen both grey squirrels and racoons eating mushrooms in the wild. I have never seen any bird eat a fungi or any kind.
White Wood Fungi
Many people think of flowers as beautiful and many photographers concentrate on flowers, foliage and wildlife when they think of nature. I think that fungi can be just as beautiful and often more challenging to photograph.

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