Last winter, I saw a scattering of little black bits on one of the tree planter dealies. I thought at first someone had dropped a bit of something from a pocket, but upon bending over, determined it was a scattering of the most delightful wee black cup-shaped fungi I’d ever seen. I didn’t tend to carry the camera everywhere then, and the weather was lousy for a while, and just at the time I had both camera and good weather, some bugger had buried all my wee black cups under a quarter ton of compost.
Next winter, I vowed. I shall photograph them next winter.
And I did.
You can see how they’re overwhelmed by a simple tube of lip balm. They’re incredibly small.
If we kneel down and peer inside, we begin to see detail: the pale rings alternating with dark bands, the somewhat corrugated texture of their walls, the splits therein. Some of them are closed at the bottom, others open. Some are round, some are oblong. Some are wide-open, some are very narrow. Quite a variety for fungi that, at a glance, just look like a scattering of black freckles on the ground.
They’re pretty tough and hardy. This year, no one’s gotten round to composting for a while, and these survived well into the winter, even making it through a few freezes. I’m suspecting they may be related to or a delicate variety of wood mushroom.
I came across a review of a book I’ll have to track down again, with a gentleman talking about how he’s convinced rocks and minerals will be much different on planets with no life. And I believe he’s right, at least in part. Rocks like limestone, of course, are obvious – I mean, there are entire swathes of the stuff that couldn’t exist without plants and animals. Coal? Yeah, you’re not getting that without plants, so far as I know. I look at things like the fungi above, busily going about their mysterious lives, and I wonder if even scattered wood-lovers like this may not change the geological record in some small way. That’s one of the reasons I get excited about travel to other worlds – we get a chance to compare and contrast.
You can see the full set of wee black delights here. I can’t wait to find out what they are! I’m glad ya’ll like educating my ignorant ass, and yes, I do brag about you at every opportunity.