Xogulano: A Curious Community

My start to the day was unconventional and a little unpleasant. I woke to find that my flotation device had somehow become wrapped around my neck, so that I was breathing in vinyl. Having disentangled myself, I discovered that aΒ  family of mites had made a nest in the hem of my trousers. I popped as many of the tiny scurrying arachnids as I could and then doused my trouser ends in paraffin.

Fortunately, since this, my day has got considerably better. I took my small rowing boat out to the furthermost island and discovered a curious structure.

Plant colony

Those who saw a previous blog of mine about Volvox, will be familiar with the idea of singular organisms working as a society. Less common is when organisms of different species work together. Lichen is one example of this; what I discovered today on the island, is another.

 

As you can see from my sketch, a number of plants and fungi grow in different chambers or on nodules, evenly spaced around the uppermost part. There is not a single repeated organism and no sign of competition for space between the different species, as might be expected.

The reason I call this a colony, and the reason I believe the harmony between the species is not an accident; is that these organisms aren’t growing on rock, but a giant fungus. It has the consistency of florist foam, slightly squishy when pressed, but able to maintain a firm shape. The fibres connecting the fungus to the ground are mycelium, the fungal equivalent of roots.

Plants don’t usually succeed in growing on fungus, so I can only assume that this fungus has especially adapted to cultivate them. The fungus has essentially created a farm, with a number of different plant and fungus species fed by the host, which in turn create detritus that can be broken down and fed on.

I have never seen a colony such as this before and I suspect it is a phenomenon unknown to science. If I hadn’t seen it, I would have strongly doubted its existence. However, I am not the first person to have discovered it, in the soft surface of the fungus, I found a number of hand prints. Presumably the locals are more comfortable with visiting than they let on.

Dr Florence

12 thoughts on “Xogulano: A Curious Community

    1. I’m sure she’d love to have you there, she doesn’t tend to keep her associates for long, ‘irreconcilable differences’ are often cited πŸ˜‰

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  1. These are such fun, fascinating and intriguing reads, but I’m biased …. love the combo of plants, nature, science and the imagination running into the unknown, but, hey, I’m a gardener … so LOL … this is just awesome to me, my friend πŸ˜€

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      1. It was my job for about 20 years, until I was “psychologically harassed out of the last rotten place” …. upon which I had a meltdown and burn out. And I’m still “there” …. it’s been 4 years, I think? But my neck injuries and subsequent lower back injuries would keep me from working anyhow.

        Enough of the crappy bits though ….. there is nothing quite like playing in the dirt and with plants and watching things grow and change and the small evolution and revolutions that happen outside πŸ˜€

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      2. Hefty sympathies to you my friend, I know how difficult it is to be kept from the job. I’m glad that you now get time to write your beautiful stories though. Humans can also adapt brilliantly to their surroundings. Wishing you a beautiful day. πŸ™‚

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      3. oh yes, adaptation ….. and I don’t think any of the “setbacks” in my life have been randomly orchestrated πŸ˜‰

        Hope the day and the rest of the week is wonderful for you too πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

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