The Fruiting Body of the Violet Cortinarius

  Pojar and MacKinnon is a field guide to Pacific Northwest plants. Most of what I saw on my hike in Olympic National Forest last week were plants, but we also saw an array of fungii.
   Taxonomically speaking, mushrooms and other fungii are not plants. They do not possess chlorophyll and do not make their own food via the process of photosynthesis. Fungi are parasitic and live off a host plant via thread-like filament called hyphae. Most of the fungus on earth is underground. What we see on the ground is the fruiting body of the fungus.
 Click here to see a beautiful photograph of the spectacular fruiting body of the Violet Cortinarious, also known as Cortinarius violaceus. This mushroom could really use a nickname.
  Still with me, cloud lovers? In his book, Tales from the Underground: A Natural History of Subterranean Life, David W. Wolfe of Cornell University writes this:
" 1992 genetic analysis of samples of wood-eating fungus Armillaria bulbosa, collected in a Michigan hardwood forest over an area equivalent to several football fields, showed that it was a single organism that had been alive and remained genetically stable for more than 1,500 years."
And, he continues, the weight of that organism was estimated at 220,000 pounds--the size of a Blue Whale! Something to remember when you are walking in the forest.
   Here are some other things to remember about fungii. They reproduce through spores (not seeds and pollen); fungi are the decomposers (not producers) in the ecosystem; and the cell walls of fungi are made of chitin, not cellulose.
   Happy Trails!