Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stalk Forrest Group

The new batch of Cordyline tequila* was tasty but these are not what we expected to find floating in the bottle.

As any fule kno they are the Ophiocordyceps robertsii fungus that has consumed caterpillars of the Porina moth while keeping their shape. And is the Porina moth closely related to the agave moth? Is it bogroll.



Old Entomologist head barmaid Evangeline van Holsterin called our attention to the phylogenetic wall-chart tacked up beside the dartboard, to show that O. robertsii is closely related to Ophiocordyceps sinensis. Then she talked persuasively about the role of O. sinensis in Chinese traditional medicine "as an aphrodisiac and as a treatment for a variety of ailments from fatigue to cancer". This is all very well, sez I, but the sentient fungi from Mi-Go at the next table do not seem well-pleased by the sight. But Evangeline reckoned that sentient fungi spend all night nursing a single bowl of hyphae and they never tip so she does not give a tinker's.

So it turns out that the supply of O. sinensis is endangered by massive over-harvesting on the plateau of Leng Tibet (oddly enough known there as aweto, the Māori name for O. robertsii), Chinese herbalism being one of these traditional medicines where the popularity of an ingredient is determined neither by tradition nor by clinical effect but by its market price. Prices have reached US$60000 / kg.** If Gerry Brownlie finds out he will see the potential for a lucrative though short-lived export trade, and before we know it our national-park forest floors will be ploughed up for fungi for China.

Another close relative: The ant-zombifying fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis.

Then there is Cordyceps bassiana, though for some reason this species doesn't grow spore heads in NZ so it is known here as the sugar-icing fungus Beauveria bassiana. Here it has parasitised a cicada:
The camera didn't record the unearly colour of the fungal growth, an indescribable phosphorescent colour not of this world, and has simply shown it as white.

In retrospect it may have been a mistake to touch the meteorite.

* Note for foragers: The cabbage tree or Cordyline australis is widely grown in the US as street trees, particularly in San Francisco. The growing tips as well as the rootstock are edible, just saying.

** Organised crime!
Police say two men entered the Tung Yun Tang Herbal Company on the 4600-block of No. 3 Road at 4:30 p.m. and sprayed an employee with bear spray. They then stole three jars of a Chinese fungus with the scientific name Cordyceps valued at $38,000 and two jars of bird's nests valued at $8,000.
Presumably the herbal warehouse employs ursine guards whom
bear spray serves to disable or repel.

26 comments:

mikey said...

I can't help but notice that the Phylogenetic chart, in it's native (unclicked) state, resembles nothing so much as California.

Upon closer examination, I was shocked to discover that I live in the middle of Clavicipitaceae. Not an altogether unpleasant place, all things considered...

Smut Clyde said...

Closer comparison shows that Klamath and Crescent City are outgroups.

ckc (not kc) said...

...and what's with sneaking new posts down below the older ones. Some of us struggle mightily to keep up as it is!!!

Smut Clyde said...

Fecksed.

Jennifer said...

Now penises with tassels??

Mendacious D said...

Presumably the herbal warehouse employs ursine guards whom bear spray serves to disable or repel.

DKW (and myself) have documented this previously. Clearly they need a union.

ckc (not kc) said...

...penises with tassels

Well, boobies with tassels (or tassles[sic]) were just good clean fun, but this is beyond the pale (the unearly pale, so to speak)

WV relogin ...OK, already!!

ckc (not kc) said...

Beauveria bassiana has potential as a biocontrol for insect pests, which, of course, takes it out of the realm of the merely biologically fascinating and into the economically "stimulating".

It's the "what have you done for me lately" school of biology.

vacuumslayer said...

POOP.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Stalk Forrest Group

Stop it.

vacuumslayer said...

100% vegan, organic tampons.

ckc (not kc) said...

...now you're just picking on us, aren't you? Let's talk about California instead.

vacuumslayer said...

One more...

ALIEN CARROTS

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Everybody likes to party with fungi.
~

Substance McGravitas said...

In retrospect it may have been a mistake to touch the meteorite.

Funguska explained!

Smut Clyde said...

SUBSTANCE IS BANNED.

Smut Clyde said...

Only just noticed the presence of Claviceps purpurea i.e. ergot about halfway down the wall-chart, in the position of Oakland.

fish said...

Funguska explained!

Also explains the mushroom cloud.

vacuumslayer said...

...now you're just picking on us, aren't you?

Who? Me? I'm just randomly screaming out things I think the top picture looks like.

tigris said...

The camera didn't record the unearly colour of the late cicada.

Also: SWOON. That is all.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Then there is Cordyceps bassiana, though for some reason this species doesn't grow spore heads in NZ so it is known here as the sugar-icing fungus Beauveria bassiana. Here it has parasitised a cicada:

Fess up, candied cicadas are a local delicacy.

(oddly enough known there as aweto, the Māori name for O. robertsii)

Could trepang traders have introduced the term from one group to the other?

Or could it have been degenerate seafaring cultists based in Dunedin?

mikey said...

So I was going to have some nice, wholesome Buckwheat noodles.

Until I discovered they were from the Genus Fagopyrum!!!

Soba my ASS!

Smut Clyde said...

From the 1870s on there was a thriving trade in exporting mouse-ear fungus to the Chinese market; they could have been exporting aweto at the same time. As well as salted pineapple but that goes without saying.

I would write more but my entire body is progressively stiffening, with the skin cracking and flaking away like some eldritch lichen.

ckc (not kc) said...

...flaking away like some eldritch lichen

you could scrape it off with an eldritch cleaver

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I would write more but my entire body is progressively stiffening, with the skin cracking and flaking away like some eldritch lichen.

Body's getting ever tighter,
Skin is flaking, much like nitre.

Smut Clyde said...

Or could it have been degenerate seafaring cultists based in Dunedin?

I have not forgiven people for their failure to comment on map enhancement.