Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A Pycnoporus fungus

with 18 comments

Orange Fungus with Dry Pine Needles 2028

Here’s a fungus in the genus Pycnoporus that had incorporated some dry pine needles into itself. Like the last few photographs, this one comes from an April 27th field trip to Bastrop State Park led by botanist Bill Carr. Thanks to mycologist David P. Lewis for identifying the genus of the fungus. (I couldn’t give him enough information to distinguish between the two species in Texas.)

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 29, 2014 at 5:52 AM

18 Responses

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  1. Now THAT is unique! Really interesting to see protuding pine needles where none should be!


    June 29, 2014 at 9:59 AM

    • As much as I like your comment about uniqueness, Karen, I’ll have to tell the truth and say that I’ve seen this phenomenon at least once before. It was a good 10 years ago, and in that instance the fungus had incorporated some blades of grass. At the time I wasn’t sure whether the grass had poked its way through the fungus or the fungus had grown around the blades of grass; today’s picture answers the question because the pine needles are presumably long dead while the fungus is relatively recent and still capable of growing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 29, 2014 at 10:09 AM

      • Very very fascinating. I learn so much from your blog! 🙂


        June 29, 2014 at 10:45 AM

        • I keep learning things too, but I see so much in nature I can’t identify or don’t understand. I often think about how much I must be missing, but I keep putting myself out there and things to photograph keep coming my way.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 29, 2014 at 10:54 AM

  2. That must have been a great trip. The times when I have been in the field with a botanist I am amazed at all there is to see. The same goes, of course, when I’m with a birder. I vividly remember one day when a fungus expert had us crawling along the sand dunes with hand lenses, checking out all the small lichens and fungi that specialize there. That was pretty neat.


    June 29, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    • It was a great trip. We did a couple of hours in the morning, broke for lunch, then did another couple of hours in the afternoon. Having a botanist and some other very knowledgeable people along made a big difference. I sometimes try to imagine what it’s like to see nature through their eyes, where so much more is familiar and identifiable than through mine. As much as I’ve learned, I’ll always be much more a photographer than a botanist.

      I can picture you crawling along the sand dunes. I’d do that too, only the macro lens on my camera would replace the hand lens you mentioned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 29, 2014 at 10:33 AM

  3. Wow, I do like this fungus image, Steve.

    George Weaver

    June 29, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    • It’s a curious phenomenon, George, isn’t it? I’m reminded of Dolly Parton’s line that “wildflowers don’t care where they grow,” but fungi can take that to another level.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 29, 2014 at 10:58 AM

  4. That’s one of the strangest sights I’ve seen. I wonder if the fungus uses the pine needles as a means of support. There are plenty of interesting symbiotic relationships in nature, so it might be possible. Or it could be happenstance.

    I noted your comment about the fungus’s unique appearance, and had a little spin through the dictionaries. It’s good to be reminded the word has different meanings, some of them informal. It was interesting to read the pros and cons of modifying the word, too, as advertisers so often do. (“Plan an entirely unique vacation this year!” and so on.)

    After some consideration, I’ve decided that, while this example of the species may not be unique, your photo of it surely is.


    June 29, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    • I don’t know, but my intuition is that the fungus is not using the pine needles for support. As support for my intuition, I’ll add that I’ve seen other fungi similarly extended from branches with nothing propping them up or stabilizing them from outside.

      Oh, the word unique. I’m enough of an old fogey to use the adjective only [i.e. one-ly] in its original sense of ‘one of a kind.’ I know it’s a losing cause to fight for, but that’s my stance in a world where amazing, incredible, awesome, unbelievable and similar words mean at best ‘good’ but often have no meaning at all except to indicate that the speaker would reach out to click the Like button if one could miraculously be made to materialize in the air nearby. (Go, Steve, go!)

      That said, I’ll gladly accept your acceptance of this photograph as unique.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 29, 2014 at 1:00 PM

      • OK. I can’t help myself.

        Do you know how to catch a unique rabbit?
        Easy. You nique up on it.


        June 29, 2014 at 1:05 PM

        • I could say that puns are beneaque you and therefore you nique to get over them—but I’d never say that.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 29, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      • Serendipity strikes again. I just received my copy of Charles Murray’s new book, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead. (Yes, that Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve.) In the Chapter titled “On Thinking and Writing Well,” he has a section on incorrect usage, and includes this:

        Unique used to mean unusual. If something is unique, it is one of a kind. Something cannot be somewhat unique, or very unique. That doesn’t mean you can never modify unique. For example, something can be almost unique, or unequivocally unique. Just don’t use an adjective that ignores the core meaning of “one of a kind.”

        You should read what he has to say about the use of “like”. Actually, I’ll tell you.

        “Do you use the word “like” as a verbal tic? I mean, like, do you insert it in, like, random points in your, like, spoken conversation? If the answer is yes, this is the single most important tip in the entire book: STOP IT.”


        June 29, 2014 at 8:12 PM

        • Curmudgeonly me has to agree, and wholeheartedly, with that last bit of advice. In around 1981, when I was teaching math in an Austin high school, every time one of the kids would say the verbal tic kind of like I would immediately say giraffe, which made as much sense, which is to say none at all. I’m afraid the situation hasn’t improved in the more than three decades since then.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 29, 2014 at 10:45 PM

  5. Exceptional photo…The information is both so useful and so enjoyable; as I hike I like to know what I am seeing, this is really useful.

    • I’m glad you find this so useful, Charlie. I don’t always understand the things I photograph, but getting pictures comes first and then I can look for explanations—which I still don’t always find.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2014 at 10:27 AM

  6. What an interesting and beautiful photo. The colours: orange, light and dark brown give this photo such an autumnal feel.

    Mary Mageau

    June 30, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    • It’s a strange phenomenon, isn’t it, Mary? And April would indeed be autumn in Australia, a fact that may have influenced your perception. Glad you like it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2014 at 7:47 PM

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