A strange-looking thing showed up in my yard recently, emerging from the forest floor next to a rotting stump, peeping out from among the pine needles and decaying wood. Its egg-shaped form, topped …
A strange-looking thing showed up in my yard recently, emerging from the forest floor next to a rotting stump, peeping out from among the pine needles and decaying wood. Its egg-shaped form, topped by a white ring and small opening, seemed to peer from the earth like an olive-colored eye. The fanciful fungi revealed itself to be a Ravenel’s stinkhorn—aptly named for the sweet but decidedly unpleasant-smelling goo produced by stinkhorns.
Soon, a stalk of lattice-like flesh lifted the egg upward toward the sky, roughly six inches high, before collapsing back to the earth, where it faded away quickly—another fascinating display from the world of fungi.
Not far from the stinkhorn, another flash of color and texture caught my eye—the gelatinous curls of orange jelly that fruits on dead conifers and stumps in the Upper Delaware River region. Jelly fungi lose water in dry weather and then revive in rainy weather by absorbing water, allowing the fruitbodies to resume their normal size, shape and color.
These delicate discoveries reminded me of a mind-blowing documentary film released earlier this year. “Fantastic Fungi,” by Louie Schwartzberg, explores the mysterious world of mushrooms in a lush visual landscape made even more compelling by the time-lapse photography that is a hallmark of Schwartzberg’s astonishing work. (Also see Schwartzberg’s award-winning Netflix series “Moving Art,” a visual feast highlighting the rapturous beauty of nature.)
In addition to revealing the eye-widening visual wonders of the mushroom world, “Fantastic Fungi” also features the pioneering work and insights of mycologist Paul Stamets, as well as interviews with other renowned fungi folks like Eugenia Bone, author of “Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms.”
Of particular interest is the delving into the “unseen” workings of vast underground networks of mycelium (fungal threads) that we are only just beginning to understand for the important roles they play in the life of our planet, as well as the many ways in which fungi influence the well-being of humans. Check it out at www.fantasticfungi.com.
A companion book has also been produced, exploring the possibilities for restoring ecosystems, expanding consciousness and advancing alternative healing properties offered by fungi. Stamets, whose mother’s recovery from advanced breast cancer was positively influenced by mushrooms, offers a line of fungi-based products that support health at www.hostdefense.com.