|Spinellus fusiger parasitizes Mycena species, like this M. haematopus.|
Though it's hot as stink outside right now, and dry, to boot, most of this summer has been unseasonably cool and moist—perfect growing conditions for all kinds of interesting fungal fruitings, including one I've wanted to see for years, Spinellus fusiger. The weather has, in fact, been so accommodating that I've found this spectacular bread-mould-related growth four separate times. It's hard to care about how crummy the weather is for swimming when hair-raising characters like this keep appearing in the woods.
|The long, erect sporangiophores of Spinellus fusiger make the |
mushrooms they attack look as if they've been electrocuted.
Spinellus species grow long erect "sporangiophores" tipped by
spherical spore-producing bodies that darken as spores mature.
Spinellus species belong to the order Mucorales, or "pin molds," in the phylum Zygomycota. The hyphae of these fungi, unlike those of ascomycetes or basidiomycetes, are rarely septate, which means they have no barriers to slow the movement of cytoplasm, allowing them to grow extremely quickly. If you've ever had a loaf of bread that's been colonized by the less spectacular, but much more common mucorale, Rhizopus stolonifer, or black bread mould, you will understand how quickly these fungi can grow.
Hundreds of asexual Spinellus spores are produced by each sporangium.
|The stalks of Spinellus, and all other mucorales, |
have a swelling at the tip called a columella.
Another woodland mycoparasitic mucorale, is Syzygites megalocarpus. The only species in its genus, S. megalocarpus is nowhere near as choosy about its victims as S. fusiger and has, so far, been found on 65 different genera. It's easily recognized by its multi-branched sporangiophores that make the fungi they parasitize look as if they've not only grown hair, but hair that desperately needs frizz-control. When they first start growing, these sporangiophores are deep yellow due to the carotenoid pigments they produce, but become paler as they stretch out, and eventually turn a more traditional mould colour—bluish gray.
|This Syzygites has made an Amanita flavoconia almost unrecognizable.|
|This Syzygites megalocarpus appeared overnight on a|
Boletus subvelutipes left out on my dining-room table.
|An ethereal veil of Syzygites megalocarpus hangs |
from the cap of a small Pluteus species.
|The sporangiophores of Syzygites megalocarpus are |
dichotomously branched up to six times.
|Asexual spores of Syzygites megalocarpus are |
produced on the tips of branched sporangiophores.
Syzygites megalocarpus on Mycoquebec
Spinellus fusiger on Mycoquebec
McLaughlin, D. J., E. G. McLaughlin, and P. A. Lemke. 2001. The Mycota VIIA: Systematics and Evolution. Springer-Verlag, New York.
Hoffmann, K., Pawlowska, J., Walther, G., Wrzosek, M., de Hoog, G. S., Benny, G. L., ... & Voigt, K. (2013) The family structure of the Mucorales: a synoptic revision based on comprehensive multigene-genealogies. Persoonia 30: 57-76.
Time-lapse video of Syzygites growing