July 2002

1.  Myriostoma coliforme (Saltshaker Earthstar)

2. PLUS 10 more selections -  Click on individual species to access. Clavulinopsis corniculata, Hypoxylon  fragiforme, Helvella macropus, Laetiporus sulphureus, Lycoperdon perlatum, Onnia tomentosa, Pachyella clypeataPhaeolus schweinitzii, Ramariopsis laeticolor, Suillus grevillei, Cortinarius mutabilis also Phragmidium mucronatum (see below for details)

1. Botanists store plant specimens in a Herbarium.  Plants are collected in the field, transported as carefully as possible (hopefully in a vasculum) and then dried and pressed in a Plant Press between sheets of paper.  They are carefully laid out before pressing to show all the important features related to identification including flower parts.  After pressing and drying the plants are carefully placed on a white sheet herbarium of herbarium paper and  glued into position.  Glued to the bottom corner of each herbarium sheet is a slip of paper with all the pertinant data to indicate the date of collection, the place of collection, the collector's name, the Latin name of the specimen, the name of the person who identified the plant, the common name, and there is also a small space to write notes of special interest.  Dried specimens are stored flat in folders in herbarium cases  (damp proof and insect proof) and can be kept for hundreds of years and inspected at intervals by taxonomists who have a particular interest in that collection or they can can be used by students to learn the critical identification features of a species whenb living plants are not available.   Colours of the various plant parts are often exceptionally well preserved and a well pressed, carefully mounted plant specimen can be a work of art.

       Fungi for the most part, and especially macrofungi, are often fleshy and are hard to dry.  They are put in a low temperature drying oven like the ones they use to dry fruit and with the same result!   The idea is to dry them out before they rot or before insect   larvae devour them.  These dried macrofungi are, for the most part, no great joy either to prepare or study  (you could compare them to a peach before and after drying).  Microfungi, on the other hand, often store quite well.   This is particularly true of fungal parasites of plants that sporulate on infected leaves.   Rust fungi are a good example of this.  At an open house in our department I once made a mount from a rose leaf of a rust fungus called Phragmidium that parasitizes roses.  The specimen was collected and placed in the herbarium a hundred years before I made the mount and it could have been collected yesterday.   I put it under a mciroscope for the visitors to see.  I took a picture of this spore that  I made from this century old collection!  Click here to see the photomicrograph of the Phragmidium spore.   Slime Mould fruitbodies also store well for long periods.  They colours can fade over the years but storing in the dark slows this down a bit.  Slime moulds should be stored in little boxes to prevent crushing.

     At any rate, while going through the old dried collections of fungi in our herbarium, I found a little box that had Myriostoma coliforme written on the outside.   This is one of the earthstar fungi but has a number of holes in the spore sac and because of this is referred to as the 'Saltshaker Earthstar'.   I have never found it in my travels around Canada so in my experience it is pretty rare.  Anyway, when I looked inside the box the fungus seemed in remarkably good shape for a specimen collected over thirty years ago.   A slip of paper inside the box indicted that it had been collected by Mrs. A. Franklin in 1971 in Point Pelee Park, Ontario.   There are not too many good pictures of Myriostoma on the web, so I decided to take a shot of this herbarium specimen using  my recently acquired digicam.  

Nikon 995   I recently got myself a digital camera, I couldn't afford one of those high tech SLR Nikons priced at US $5,000 (C$7,500!!!!!) so I went for a  Nikon 995 at around C$1,000 + (Still not cheap eh!).  At any rate,  I will take some shots this week (Monday June 3rd) pick the best one and put it on the site for your interest and enlightenment.   I set up a mini scene in my back yard yesterday (June 15th) and took a few shots.  Click here for picture of Myriostoma.  So,   as you can see,  some herbarium specimens can last a long time in pretty good condition and could fool you into believing they were just recently collected.   But I have to be honest, however, and say that the quality of the image with the 995 doesn't  compare with the Nikon F3 and  a MicroNikkor but then I didn't expect it to!   On the other hand it's a great way to get quick shots for the record even if you can't blow them up and put them on the wall!  More digicam shots next month.