Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tooth Fungi

The frequency of rain storms have diminished and things are beginning to dry out. This doesn’t mean that there’s any shortage of moisture necessary to keep the fungi popping up. I’m still finding a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. I’ll be really disappointed if I find that the common name for this fungus doesn’t somehow refer to teeth.

While walking through the woods, I glanced to the side and saw what appeared to be teeth stuck into a split in a decomposing tree branch. I stopped to get a closer look and began wondering what I would have thought I had seen if I’d not had the opportunity to further investigate this strange sight. I try to make sure of what I’m seeing before announcing my discovery. Our minds quickly put a familiar label on the things we see and it takes further examination to verify or deny that initial reaction. I wonder what it says about my mind that I thought I saw teeth lined up on this branch.

The closer I got, the more the fungi looked like teeth. I know some people who would not have gotten this close to what they suspected were human teeth and would never have discovered their true identity. They would have gone off and begun stories of secretive woods people that put their teeth on display for some strange deep woods ritual.

When you finally get nose to fungus, it’s obvious that you’re not seeing teeth. As near as I can determine, this is a species of Claveriadelphus, most likely truncatus. At least it seems to share a lot of the same characteristics as that species.

The surface of the fungi is covered with ripe spores that take to the air with the slightest breeze. Some of the patterns on the surface make me wonder if something may be feeding on the spores. I’m sure there are a lot of factors influencing the loss of spores, but some of the patterns strongly resemble those produced by surface grazing insects. I haven’t found a common name for this species, so I’m just going to call it Tooth Fungus.