Friday, December 5, 2014

Flying Plants and Liberated Mushrooms

Puck and I just happened upon these milkweed seeds blowing from their pods as we took a walk on our local walking trail.  I took these pictures several weeks ago, but every time I scan through my cell phone photos I pause on these to marvel at this process.  

It was a very windy day, and the as the breeze made the naked stalks and pods sway, the milkweed fluff and the attached seed slowly expanded from the pods and began to fluff in the wind.  

During more violent gusts, individual fluff balls would detach from the pod with their delicate strands of fluff fully expanded, and float away on the current.  I love to think of these seeds traveling on the wind and landing in new territory.  Plants can fly!

I also took some photos of the these pretty orange mushrooms, which my mushroom hunter friend says might be called Jack O'Lanterns (Omphalotus sp.).  If these are jack o'lanterns, then they may glow in the dark!  I've seen fungus glowing in the dark before, when working in the forests at night, but the kind I saw only illuminated rotten wood when it was stepped on, or disturbed, and I was told it's called fox fire.  It was really wild to walk through the forest and look back to see my foot steps glowing!  I thought I was seeing things, and it wasn't until the guy I was working with asked me if I could see it too, that I believed my eyes.  I think we both sat in the dark thinking we were going crazy for a quite a while before he was brave enough to bring it up.  It was such a relief when he finally did. 

If you look closely on the fallen leaves under these mushrooms you can see the orange spoors that have fallen from the mushroom gills above.  I tried to do some very quick interweb research on how mushrooms reproduce, which you wouldn't think would be more than one wikipedia page away from a google search bar, and quickly realized that mushroom sex is not easy to understand by the average amateur mushroom cell phone photographer, like me.  What I came away with, is that those spores under the mushroom can grow into new mushrooms, like seeds do, but that doesn't mean that the mushroom parent hooked up with another mushroom.  They can make their own spores without a partner, or some can be their own partner, or some can partner up and create a mushrooms with genes from both.  Mushrooms have a very liberated attitude when it comes to reproduction.   

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