2 weeks ago
I found this purple crust on the surface of a cut branch that is being used to prop up one of the heavy, large, hibiscus plants in the garden. i searched for info about them and found some pretty fascinating stuff-
it's a member of a grouping of fungi called corticioid fungi, members of which are also called crust fungi (meaning they adhere to the surface of their substrate) or resupinate fungi (meaning their fruiting body is against the surface of the substrate, not on a stalk).
most corticioid fungi are wood-rotting species and rely on wood degradation as their primary means of nutrition. although the fruiting bodies are formed on the underside of dead branches or logs, the fungus resides within the wood. a number of species are litter-rotting and produce fruitbodies underneath fallen leaves and compacted litter as well as on fallen wood. they are a very effective agent of decay for plants in that it can break down all components of the plant cell wall, including sturdy brown lignins, thus leaving the white cellulose exposed. it is a saprobic crust fungus, meaning that it efficiently breaks down plant materials to their base components (starches to simple sugars, proteins to amino acids, and lipids to fatty acids and glycerol). one could speculate that if it were not for the crust fungi (and termites) breaking down fallen limbs and logs, we would be well over our noses in logs and other woody materials! some of these species are known to be ectomycorrhizal (forming a beneficial association with the roots of living trees).
since they do not use the air to distribute zillions of spores as do mushrooms, crust fungi compensate by producing their spores from early spring to late fall. they are very hardy and can dry out and then become active when they rehydrate, allowing them to live through a variety of conditions and seasonal changes.
phanerochaete crassa (violet crust fungi)
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