Posts Tagged ‘fungi


Terrifically Useful Tuesday: Fungi will save the world, one hypha at a time

This post is part of Terrifically Useful Tuesday looking at the immense benefits plants have for people. See more in this series here.

Paul Stamets: Mycelium Running

For a truly mind-blowing experience you need to see this video. Hell, everyone needs to see it–you won’t look at the earth the same way again. Microscopic cells called mycelium—the fruit of which are mushrooms—recycle carbon, nitrogen, and other essential elements as they break down plant and animal debris in the creation of rich new soil. These mycelium can help save the universe in six specific ways:

  • Mycoremediation – decompose toxic wastes and pollutants,

  • Mycofiltration – catch and reduce silt from streambeds and pathogens from agricultural watersheds),

  • Mycopesticides – control insect populations,

  • Mycoforestry and Myco-gardening – generally enhance the health of our forests and gardens,

  • Myco-pharmaceuticals – treating smallpox, tuberculosis and flu

  • Mycocolonisation – terraform other worlds in our galaxy by sowing a mix of fungal spores and other seeds to create an ecological footprint on a new planet.

Love the video? Buy the book: Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets at The Book Depository.

Want proof? Pestalotiopsis microspora eats plastic!

Quick, cheap and easy to produce but taking an extremely long time to breakdown, polyurethane is everywhere. But an Amazonian fungi can eat it for breakfast (and lunch, and dinner).

Polyurethane is one of the most commonly used plastics.  Trouble with all plastics-how do you get rid of it? When burned polyurethane releases hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide, so of course it ends up in landfills.

Future landfills could be seeded with the hungry fungi Pestalotiopsis microspora to chomp through all those discarded garden hoses, mattresses, shoes, sportswear, composite wood panels, foam seating, insulation panels, seals and gaskets, tyres, adhesives, surface coatings and sealants, spandex, carpet underlay and hard-plastic parts.

P. microspora resides in the Ecuadorian rainforest and was discovered by a group of student researchers led by molecular biochemistry professor Scott Strobel as part of Yale’s annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory. Student Pria Anand discovered that the fungi ate polyurethane and could even do so in anaerobic conditions.

This is huge news for waste management. Another fine example of fungi saving the world (for others see Paul Stamet’s fine work, video above) and should be applauded as such. But how will this affect the fungi? A steady stream of trash in, what comes out? How will the fungi evolve based on this new diet?

P. microspora has another significantly beneficial use for humans. The fungi is an endophyte of certain yew trees (Taxus spp.), meaning it lives happily within the yew not causing disease. Endophytes can produce some of the same bioactive natural products as the host plant. In this case taxol, a high-effective anticancer agent is produced by the fungus as well.

Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Endophytic Fungi

Yale researchers find fungus that can break down plastic


Leaves 001: Linking out to the plant web world

Alaskan summer

Algae garden

Tamarillo & Vanilla Jam

Sunblock prints

NZ winter fungi

Thread Cakes

So this looks pretty, but does it work…

Hopefully, if you click on the images above you should be taken off to the far-flung reaches of the interweb to find moments of botanical splendour.

I’ve been playing with the code for this for ages and there’s something glitchy in the software. If the links aren’t working above, I have included them below. It would be a shame to miss out.

Alaskan Summers are real pretty.

The International Garden Festival is on and features a striking algae garden.

Lynda Hallinan’s Winter Tamarillo and Vanilla Jam looks yum.

Sunblock prints look to be quite the thing this year.

Look at New Zealand’s very pretty winter fungi, thanks to Te Papa.

Completely not plant-related but really quite phenomenal…Have you heard of ThreadCakes?


Friday Seeds of Delight: 21 May (on a Saturday)

Well, this may be a bit late, but hey, it’s pretty! The weather on Friday was so gray, drizzly and miserable… thus the need for the beautiful autumnal colours above. Of course, this is a very rare sight in New Zealand as we don’t have a lot of deciduous trees. We do a lot of green in this country, red is reserved for Christmas. (Image link via Studio G)

Designer Natasha Vermeulen has graciously gifted this gorgeous graphic for you to print/share/post online in support of the New Zealand anti-mining protests. (More info on that here). Thanks to Endemic World for bringing the love to town. Make sure you go and buy something pretty from them.

I’m in awe… Upside down trees… I want some. This is a stunning idea, accidentally discovered by an Alaskan landscape designer. Studio G pointed this one out, they’re one of my favouritist blogs right now because Rochelle posts the most wonderful things. Go peek at her inspiration boards.

I don’t know about you, but attractive is not one of the words springing to mind when slime mold is mentioned. But, it should. Professor John Bonner certainly thought they were interesting, studying them for 70 years and noting their primitive intelligence and ability for self-sacrifice. They can even waltz.

Because it is YouTube’s fifth birthday, we might as well celebrate with another video link. A nicely-done piece of animation that the kids will probably love but might freak out a few parents. The plants have eyes! Will you ever look at your garden the same way again? And another pretty piece by the same people.

A simple yet genius solution to one of the world’s biggest problems: sanitation. Peepoo bags are hygienic, biodegradable, single-use bags that don’t require water. They are lined with urea to fast and safe degradation, can be easily distributed, collected and used as fertiliser for growing food.

And a cute little project for those colder evenings – how about building a terrarium? You can create your own little garden in in a glass jar, or maybe a bottle or even a light bulb. May be best attempted by those with a little more patience than I have.


Presents for NZ Plant Lovers: Grow Your Own Mushrooms Kit

Gourmet MushroomsAlways looking for new and novel ways to garden and eat, I’m thrilled to have found these great kits fromMushroom Gourmet. Complete with really good instructions and everything you need to be growing these little blighters. I’ll let you know in about 2 weeks just how fabulous this kit is. Yum, I can’t wait! I’m super excited at being able to cross something else off my weekly shopping list.

Grow Your Own Mushrooms Kit


Greensulate – Insulation from Mushrooms

In the very cool but very warm plant product category this week, we have Greensulate – a low-cost, rigid insulating board made from mushroom spores.

“The insulation is created by pouring a mixture of insulating particles, hydrogen peroxide, starch, and water into a panel mold. Mushroom cells are then injected into the mold, where they digest the starch producing a tightly meshed network of insulating particles and mycelium. The end result is an organic composite board that has a competitive R-Value a measurement of resistance to heat flow and can serve as a firewall.” (Thanks Sustainable Times)

Spores from oyster mushrooms are used in the board which according to David Blume can be grown on distillers grains. Another part of link in the permacultural chain? Corn – alcohol – distillers grains – oyster mushrooms – earthworms – castings – and insulation board? I may have to get one of these NZ oyster mushroom kits for Christmas.

Watch the video Stop Global Warming by Growing Styrofoam with Fungi on

Read Environmentally Friendly Organic Insulation Uses Mushroom Spores at

Image: Oyster mushrooms by the lovely maggihc @ Dog Hill Kitchen

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