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kottke.org posts about fungi

Fungi: Web of Life

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 31, 2023

Fungi: Web of Life is an upcoming IMAX documentary on mushrooms & their fungi brethren narrated by Björk and presented by Merlin Sheldrake.

Join acclaimed British biologist, Dr. Merlin Sheldrake, on a quest to find an incredibly precious blue mushroom, against the backdrop of Tasmania’s ancient Tarkine rainforest. Merlin will show us some the grandest and strangest organisms ever discovered, showcased through jaw-dropping time-lapse cinematography, in a landscape largely unchanged from the time of the dinosaurs. Fungi have important lessons to teach humanity about survival through cooperation. Indeed, these incredible lifeforms may hold the key to solving some of humanity’s most urgent problems. With millions more species to discover, our journey into the secret world of fungi has only just begun.

Sheldrake is the author of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures.

Hundreds of Gorgeous Vintage Watercolors of Mushrooms

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2023

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

watercolor illustrations of mushrooms by Hans Walty

From 1913 to 1944, amateur mycologist Hans Walty created hundreds of fantastic watercolor illustrations of mushrooms, which are available to peruse in very high-resolution at Wikimedia Commons. There’s not a great deal of information about Walty or his drawings online,1 but I did find this piece from the Swiss National Library.

His images depict the colours and shapes of the mushrooms’ fruiting bodies and sometimes also include drawings of microscopic views. The fungi are usually depicted from the side and often from the top and bottom as well. Walty also frequently documented the characteristics of the stems, spores and undersides of the caps. The hobby mycologist also produced an explanatory book to accompany his illustrations that contains descriptions of the mushrooms, with each specimen being assigned a family and genus. His illustrations often contain notes about the time and date the mushroom was found and whether it was edible, inedible or poisonous.

Walty’s illustrations were published in multiple editions of a Swiss mushroom guide from the 40s through the 70s. According to the German version of Wikipedia (translated): “For decades, 500 of his illustrations on mushrooms were considered a standard work on mushroom identification, especially in Switzerland.”

Again, you can browse through hundreds of Walty’s mushroom illustrations at Wikimedia Commons. (thx, christoph)

  1. Not in English at least; Walty was born in Italy and lived in Germany and Switzerland for much of his life. A biography is available on the German version of Wikipedia.

Alien Worlds - Macro Photos of Fungi and Slime Molds

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2023

a slime mold with white globules on a black stalk

an orange slime mold

a spikey fungus with a mushroom cap

When you look at these incredible close-up shots of fungi and slime molds by photographer and amateur mycologist Max Mudie, you realize that we don’t have to go looking for bizarre alien life on other planets: there’s plenty of it in our forests. (See also coral reefs, tbh.) Check out more of Mudie’s work on Instagram.

I’m almost positive I’ve featured the photograph at the top of the post before (but can’t find where), but I love it so much I’m featuring it again.

See also Alison Pollack’s work. (via colossal)

Foraged Mushroom Collages

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2021

mushrooms and other foraged items arranged in a colorful display

mushrooms and other foraged items arranged in a colorful display

mushrooms and other foraged items arranged in a colorful display

Using foraged mushrooms, berries, leaves, moss, and other natural materials, Heather Brooks makes these lovely and lively colorful collages, which she displays on Instagram and offers prints of on Etsy and on her website. (via life is so beautiful)

How Mushroom Time Lapses Are Filmed

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2021

Documentaries about mushrooms like Fantastic Fungi are interesting but it turns out that short documentaries about how mushroom documentaries are made are fascinating as well. For this short video, Wired talked to Louie Schwartzberg about how mushroom time lapses are filmed. I don’t know why I assumed they filmed these outside…of course they are done indoors to help control lighting, weather, and other factors (like rogue wildlife). And after decades of working on nature films, Schwartzberg has integrated his process deeply into his life:

I realized I’ve turned it into a spiritual practice. It actually literally gets me up in the morning because as soon as I’m out of bed, I’m thinking ooh, “I wonder what the flower did last night? Is it still in frame? Is it in focus?”

I have to imagine what the framing and the composition is going to look like tomorrow, or two days from now, or a week from now. That is a transformational experience because you have to put your mind into the mindset and the intention of the flower or the fungi, thinking where it’s going to grow, how big will it get. And if you’re right, boy, it’s a rush. If you’re wrong, it means you just gotta do it all over again.

This was surprisingly philosophical in parts.

Fantastic Fungi

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2019

That’s the trailer for Fantastic Fungi, a feature-length documentary about the worldwide network of mushrooms & mycelium that thrives beneath our feet. Here’s a description of what the film covers, from its companion book:

Fantastic Fungi is at the forefront of a mycological revolution that is quickly going mainstream. In this book, learn about the incredible communication network of mycelium under our feet, which has the proven ability to restore the planet’s ecosystems, repair our health, and resurrect our symbiotic relationship with nature. Fantastic Fungi aspires to educate and inspire the reader in three critical areas: First, the text showcases research that reveals mushrooms as a viable alternative to Western pharmacology. Second, it explores studies pointing to mycelium as a solution to our gravest environmental challenges. And, finally, it details fungi’s marvelous proven ability to shift consciousness.

In a review for RogerEbert.com, Matt Fagerholm called the film “one of the year’s most mind-blowing, soul-cleansing and yes, immensely entertaining triumphs”. (via colossal)

The Fantastic Fungi Pictures of Alison Pollack

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 01, 2019

Fairbanks Hysarum FS15

To finish the week, some absolutely gorgeous mushroom and myxomycetes pictures by Photographer Alison Pollack who gets close to the ground with a magnifying glass to find her subjects.

The smaller they are, the more challenging they are to photograph, but I absolutely love the challenge, [m]y goal is to show people the beauty of these tiny treasures that are all around the forest but barely visible unless you look very very closely.

Fairbanks Willkommlangea Reticulata

Colombia Cookeina Sulcipes Tropical Goblet

Calling All Fungi & Slime Mold Fans

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2019

Alison Pollack Fungi

Alison Pollack Fungi

Alison Pollack Fungi

On her Instagram account, Marin Mushrooms, nature photographer Alison Pollack captures the otherworldly beauty of fungi and slime molds in northern California forests. (via laura olin)

Mesmerizing Mushroom Time Lapse From Planet Earth II

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 22, 2016

Damn the Brits! First Brexit paves the way for Trump (ok, not entirely accurate) and now they are currently enjoying Planet Earth II with the sublime David Attenborough while we Americans have to wait until late January 2017, at which point there might not even be a planet Earth on which to watch nature frolic on our living room high-definition displays. But — Jesus where was I? Oh yes: for now we can watch this clip from the Jungles episode of Planet Earth II about fungi, including some great time lapse footage of mushrooms growing, some of which glow in the dark! Also from Planet Earth II: the incredible iguana/snake chase scene and bears scratching themselves on trees. (via colossal)

Button, crimini, and portobello are all the same mushroom

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2016

The common button or white mushroom, the crimini or brown mushroom, and the portobello mushroom are all the same species of mushroom.

Agaricus bisporus has increased in popularity in North America with the introduction of two brown strains, Portabella (sometimes also spelled portobello, portabello, or portobella) and Crimini. The three mushrooms you see to the right are all actually the same species. Portabella is a marketing name the mushroom industry came up with for more flavorful brown strains of Agaricus bisporus that are allowed to open to expose the mature gills with brown spores; crimini is actually the same brown strain that is not allowed to open before it is harvested.

See also the magical Brassica oleracea plant (cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, collard greens, and cauliflower are all the same species of plant). (via @dunstan)

Mushroom death suit

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 27, 2011

Mushroom Death Suit

Jae Rhim Lee is growing mushrooms that will eat her body after she dies. She has also designed a special suit that will house the mushrooms as they do their work.

I am interested in cultural death denial, and why we are so distanced from our bodies, and especially how death denial leads to funeral practices that harm the environment — using formaldehyde and pink make-up and all that to make your loved one look vibrant and alive, so that you can imagine they’re just sleeping rather than actually dead. The US government recently upgraded formaldehyde from a probable carcinogen to a known carcinogen, so by trying to preserve the body we poison the living.

So I was thinking, what is the antidote to that? For me the answer was this mushroom - the Infinity Mushroom. It is a symbol of a new way of thinking about death.