April Salt Spring "Fungus" of the Month: Lichenomphalia Umbellifera

Observation by josee_laroche


In honour of the April Fools holiday, April's "Fungus" of the Month is a sneaky fellow who got into this project under false pretences by fooling one of the project administrators. It isn't actually a fungus, or isn't only a fungus - it's a lichen! Lichenomphalia umbellifera, the Lichen Agaric, has a centuries-long history of shenanigans and tomfoolery; Linnaeus himself described it as a fungus that just coincidentally happened to be growing near some algae every time he saw it. The algae he called Byssus botryoides and the fungus he called Agaricus umbelliferous.


So why is this lichen so weird? There are 20000 types of lichen, each of which consists of a fungus and a cyanobacteria or alga living together in a symbiotic relationship. The cyanobacteria or alga (photobiont) makes energy from sunlight, and the fungus keeps it protected and manages nutrients and water.


99.75% of the time, the fungal half of the partnership is a sac fungus, whose relatives tend to make cup shapes. This results in the cup or donuts shaped reproductive structures, like these lichens from around the island:


Rim lichen


Firedots


But the remaining 0.25% of the time, the fungal half of the partnership is an agaric fungus, whose relatives make mushroom-shaped fruiting bodies .And one of those weirdo mushroom-shaped lichens happens to be very happy on the rocky, mossy slopes of Salt Spring Island.


Good job, small sneaky lichen friend.

Posted by corvi corvi, May 14, 2019 20:47

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