Friday, October 31, 2008

Dead Tree

A dead tree is not dead. There is life in it and on it and all through it. Thousands upon thousands of insects may dwell in a single downed tree. Many kinds of fungi may inhabit it. This mushroom is only the external evidence of a fungus that is shot through the pores and crevasses of this fallen tree. The mushroom is the 'fruiting body' of this life form. It is to the entire fungus what the tiny crab apple is to the entire crab apple tree. The fungus lives hidden entirely within the dead wood for years, decomposing it, softening its fibers so that eventually it returns to the ground to become part of the soil. Typically it appears as strands or sheets of white or tan within the trunk and under the bark. At certain times of the year, when the moisture conditions are just right, a mushroom might appear on the surface and mature to form spores within the fins on the bottom surface of the cap. From those fins, the spores are dispersed to float about on the wind to form new fungi on some other fallen or dead tree.

1 comment:

Gene Redlin said...

I think few people realize how alive a dead tree really is. It's part of the biological renewal system, right down to the inoculation of microrhyzal fungi which facilitates the exchange of nutrients in the soil.

I saw a beautiful several acre native forest northwest of Genoa IL that I had appreciated for years. It was diverse and rich. Then some guy bought the property. Put a house in the back. And then, MOWED and Removed all the fallen trees with moss on them. He made it real spic and span and sterile.

I grieved.

Decades of struggle by that patch to become thru succession an approximation of what God intended it to be was in an afternoon of Bush Hog Mowing became a wasteland.