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Sunday, 30 November 2008

THE NEW LINNAEUS

"They're highly poisonous," said the stranger, slowing down to speak. "Instant liver failure."
He walked on, looking back critically a couple of times as if suspecting I would suddenly reach down, tear the toadstools from their log and cram them hungrily into my mouth.
It would have been an inelegant place to die - bent upside down in a leaf silted stream with my phone camera tilted so their underneaths could be seen through the viewer.
These are what he was talking about.

.
This is how he saw them.
This is what I was seeing.
The same fungus; a different angle.
Apparently a completely different being.
Totally different atmosphere.
I don't know how anyone can tell what's what!
And on the same stump - these.
I'm calling them Pasta Shell Fungus.
And these
(There were others too but they were darkly purple and round a corner. I'd have needed a tripod . . . a spotlight . . . anyway, they wouldn't photograph.)
.
* * * * *
Further along the stream, where the ditch water was running properly but smellyly; where it was horrible and muddy and little bitey things were hovering round my ankles . . . there were these, also on a log.
In the photo, they look dry and pleasant. They were dry - but definitely not pleasant. They looked like a pale version of the large, fat, orange slugs everyone says don't do much damage in a garden but which make me shudder if ever I turn over a stone and find one there.

In fact, they were so repelling, I had to force myself to stay. I don't even like the pictures, though I realise they probably don't look too bad unless you've met this slug in person.
Sometimes, it's square . . . then it turns into a dome, then it stretches out . . . oh! I'll give myself nightmares.
And while I was ploughing about in the mud, wishing I didn't have to wait until Christmas for another pair of shoes (I have only one pair till then; one for outside and clogs for the house) I was thinking how much I am treading in Darwin's footsteps. I am the new Linnaeus. For, after all, they, like me, were starting from a point of relative ignorance. It was only because they got there first that they were allowed to do all the identifying and describing . . . and naming. But how they felt about their discoveries wouldn't have been a lot different.
"Oh look!" Darwin would have said. "Doesn't that fungus look just like a three inch wide pasta shell!"
"Indeed it does!" Linnaeus would have replied. "Let's call it a "Fungus Pasta Shellicus!". And Darwin would have said "But doesn't that sound too much like a name for a dinosaur?" And Philip Gosse . . . (along to keep an eye on things) would have said "And what's a dinosaur when it's at home?"
Sort of thing.
Don't you think?
_ _ _ _ _

24 comments:

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

I really love this post. Of course you know that I am a fungus lover. They are great shots, and I love the imaginary conversations that you were having.

Even with all our rain. there doesn't seem to be too many shrooms, around.

Jen

Lucy said...

Hello Muddy Boots, I was just on my way over to your blog!

I seem to have got hooked on fungus. It wasn't my intention but I keep noticing them now.

I found these by chance when I was on my way to town to meet someone - and was late as a result!

Lucy

Frances said...

Hi Lucy, I think you need to tell Santa to give you those new shoes ahead of scedule!

When someone does mention things being poisonous, a little of the rebel within does think about eating said thing, even when that thought had been absent up to that point.

Love you photos and conversations.

Frances

Lucy said...

Hello Frances - it's funny how we have these irrational and rebellious responses.

He didn't make me want to eat them but I did feel rather confrontative - I wanted to stand up and say 'How do you know?' in a not especially friendly way.

He may have been right - but I wasn't at all confident he was an expert . . . and I felt affronted. I mean . . . if I had been looking at a rose, would he have rushed up and said 'beware! it has thorns!'? . . . or 'don't eat it!'?

Maybe it is looking through a lens which makes one grumpy like that. There one is, very focused (even if the camera isn't!) and very concentrated on the one thing . . . and some bloke pops up and starts wittering . . . humm.

I'm beginning to think photography is bad for the soul. Usually, I'm quite friendly when I'm out for a walk!

Lucy

Barbee' said...

The photo in your header is wonderful!!! You caught the light at the perfect moment and slant. Congratulations! It should be on an expensive calendar. Maybe you could produce a pretty calendar of nothing but fungus photos.

Gail said...

Excellent photos Lucy and I love what you've written, too. gail

Far Side of Fifty said...

You certainly do take wonderful photographs! I often wonder also, do they know for sure about those deadly mushrooms..but I would not want to test the theory myself. Now I wonder what in the world is wrong with me, when I ALMOST laughed out loud with your description of laying upside down near the creek...I must be on pumpkin pie overload! :)

themanicgardener said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this. I wish you'd been looking at what YOU knew were safe shrooms, so you could indeed have stuffed them into your mouth and munched away, staring at him the while....
--Kate

Lucy said...

Barbee - thank you.

I like the idea of a fungus calendar. I haven't seen one but I expect they already exist.

Not having taken much (if any) notice of fungi before (except for field mushrooms) I don't know whether they are in evidence round here every month of the year - but maybe that wouldn't matter as long as there were twelve good photos.

Lucy

Lucy said...

Gail - thank you.

Fortunately, deer don't go through these woods . . . . !

Lucy

Lucy said...

Far Side - I think I'd better get a book about fungi.

Maybe you die three days after simply LOOKING at them!

So long . . . fare well . . .

Lucy

Lucy said...

Kate

Glad you liked the latest fungal post.

However . . . even if I had been in the mood for eating raw mushrooms . . . !

(Poor man. I'm sure he was trying to be helpful rather than interfering . . . I hope he doesn't read blogs!)

Lucy

Plant Mad Nige said...

Lucy, I can hardly believe these pics are taken with your phone. They are wonderful! Imagine if Darwin had taken a mobile phone with him on the Beagle!

And if Linnaeus had had a mobile, perhaps the entire science of taxonomy would have been constructed from text messages, rather than Latin. What a thought!

Tyra in Vaxholm said...

Beautiful post Lucy, I just love your artistry! Both with words and camera / Tyra

Lucy said...

Nigel - thank you. I'm glad you still like the photos . . . I seem to have got hooked on fungus, which I hand't expected . . .

It's what comes from starting a free-ranging blog, I keep thinking I know what I'm doing with it . . . then I wander off somewhere else.

The idea of using text-message language for naming plants doesn't appeal. On the other hand - if Darwin had had a mobile phone . . . well, it's hard to think of anything more exciting.

I don't have a television but I did happen to see a couple of Autumn Watch programmes a few weeks ago and, although everyone else in the room enjoyed them enormously, I found them staggeringly slow and boring.

(Hope you didn't have anything to do with them!)

But if there had been dispatches from the Beagle . . . and photos and video snips from fossil sites . . . and Darwin offering his developing thoughts as he went along . . . well, that would have been different!

Lucy

Lucy said...

Tyra . . . I'm glad you like LOOSE AND LEAFY.

I enjoy writing and constructing it!

Lucy

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Lucy, this so made me smile, especially the part about the stranger looking back at you as if you were going to stuff them in your mouth. The looked so elegant there (from your angle.)~~Dee

Nancy said...

ahh...the word verification was porso.. sounds like a kind of mushroom, doesn't it?

If you'd like to make a calendar and sell it, you could make an account on Cafe Press.

They would handle the printing, sale and sending for you, all you have to do (the hard part) is make the calendar. I think you should include part of your posts about them with the picture, as together, they are even more charming than apart. You do have a way with words...

The Garden Faerie said...

Fungi are so cute!
~ Monica

Lucy said...

Hello Dee - Yes, it was funny how, from my angle (from below!) they looked pretty and from above (the way they looked from the path) they were bright but lumpy. It's the kind of thing that makes identification difficult for an amateur.

Lucy

Lucy said...

Hello Nancy

Thank you for telling me about Cafe Press. I'd not come across it before.

However, the price they sell calendars for is extraordinarily high. I can't believe anyone would pay that much. I wouldn't!

. . . So I don't think I'll follow that route.

It looks like a good idea but I wonder how many of anything ever really get sold!

Lucy

Lucy said...

Hello Monica

Toadstools connect us with fairy tales, don't they?

Lucy

this is my patch said...

Fantastic photos and a great piece of writing too. Thanks for commenting on my fungus post. I would really like to spot some more fungi on my travels. Your pasta variety, stuffed with mince and covered in grated cheese, does seem rather appealing, if they weren't deemed poisonous that is! x

Lucy said...

Hello Louise

I'm glad you enjoyed the New Linnaeus Post. And thanks for letting me know!

(I'm not sure my comment on your fungus post was very profound though!)

Lucy