Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The fungi from space

"Swift as the shooting star, that gilds the night
With rapid transient Blaze, she runs, she flies;
Sudden she stops nor longer can endure
The painful course, but drooping sinks away,
And like that falling Meteor, there she lyes
A jelly cold on earth" - William Somerville.

While browsing the Mycologist I found this interesting article on the old idea that fungi came from space and some meteorites contained fungi. This is in some ways logical, fungi often appear very suddenly almost as if they fell from the sky and various fungi can resemble genuine meteorites:

A meteorite

A fungus

Strangely this idea seems to have been resurrected in the age of UFOs where fungi and fairy ring are again mistaken for extra-terrestrial traces.

There are various names for these celestial fungi including ‘star jelly’, ‘rot of the stars’ or ‘star shot’ and ‘pwdre ser’ in welsh. These probably refer to fungi such as Tremella lutescens.

The Idea of space fungi put me in mind of HP lovecraft’s ‘fungi from yuggoth’ and also this illustration of the peculiar ancient fungus Prototaxites:

Prototaxites - Click for larger version

This painting is very evocative of an alien world which in many ways the Devonian was. Its strange how the ancient world can look stranger than people’s imaginary concepts of alien worlds.

Refs:

Ethnomycological notes. II. Meteorites and fungus lore
Mycologist, Volume 20, Issue 1 , February 2006, Pages 22-25
Á.M. Nieves-Rivera and D.A. White.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mycol.2005.11.009 (free full text)

Star jelly - Wikipedia

Pwdre Ser or 'Star Jelly' - The Edinburgh Geologist

Pwdre Ser - Space Blobs

Rotted wood–alga–fungus: the history and life of Prototaxites Dawson 1859
Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology
Volume 116, Issues 1-2 , August 2001, Pages 123-158
Francis M. Hueber
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0034-6667(01)00058-6

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