Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Shelf fungus

with 17 comments

At Palmetto State Park on November 23rd I photographed several kinds of shelf fungi. Not till I processed this picture the next day did I notice a spider over on the left side—and a strange spider it was, with only six legs. What happened to the other two, I don’t know. You’re welcome to click the excerpt below for a closer look at the six-legged spider.

‡       ‡       ‡

I call your attention to the article “The Empowering of the American Mind: 10 Principles for Opposing Thought Reform in K-12,” in which Greg Lukianoff fleshes out each of these:

  • Principle 1: No compelled speech, thought, or belief.
  • Principle 2: Respect for individuality, dissent, and the sanctity of conscience.
  • Principle 3: Teachers & administrators must demonstrate epistemic humility.
  • Principle 4: Foster the broadest possible curiosity, critical thinking skills, and discomfort with certainty.
  • Principle 5: Foster independence, not moral dependency.
  • Principle 6: Do not teach children to think in cognitive distortions.
  • Principle 7: Do not teach the ‘Three Great Untruths.’
  • Principle 8: Take student mental health more seriously.
  • Principle 9: Resist the temptation to reduce complex students to limiting labels. 
  • Principle 10: If it’s broke, fix it. Be willing to form new institutions that empower students and educate them with principles of free, diverse, and pluralistic society.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 5, 2021 at 4:32 AM

17 Responses

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  1. Absent your title, I might have assumed I was looking at the end of an old, strangely formed log with badly checked wood. It’s strangely attractive, though not as strange as the six-legged spider.

    I followed the link to the full article by Lukianoff, and found it useful. I’ll confess I smiled in amused recognition at several lines: particularly, “Any ideology that cannot be questioned is indistinguishable from fundamentalist religion.” I was curious about his concept of moral dependency, so it was good to see that fleshed out. As for the Three Great Untruths, he’s summed them up well. I could provide examples galore, but I’ll mention one. It’s becoming rare to read or hear “I think…” in discussions. “I feel…” has pride of place now. Prioritizing emotion over thought certainly has some roots in the ’60s glib assertion that the personal is the political. In any event, whenever I come across “I feel…” I always stop to reconsider what I’m reading or hearing.


    December 5, 2021 at 7:07 AM

    • As this fungus was on a log, you could almost imagine the fungus camouflaging itself to look like a part of the log for protection.

      The criterion that “any ideology that cannot be questioned is indistinguishable from fundamentalist religion” is a key reason that people like John McWhorter classify “wokeism,” many of whose advocates shun debate, as a religion.

      You can find a more-detailed fleshing out of The Three Great Untruths in The Coddling of the American Mind.

      Your comment just made me notice a prioritizing of feeling over thought in the upsurge of the phrase “lived experience”:


      The first word in “lived experience is redundant because the only way you can have an experience is by living it. The “lived part emphasizes how people feel about what they’ve experienced.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2021 at 7:57 AM

  2. We have a lot of hardened fungus in our woodlands, but I haven’t noticed one with such interesting crackling. And, I don’t often see camouflaged fungus, but what you captured shows not only the color of the fungus in comparison to the tree bark, but the spider blends in, appearing as if it is a crack in the fungus. I wonder about the spider’s missing legs. It may have been born that way, or perhaps lost to disease or a battle. We see a lot of deformities in the woodlands. I often wonder how much of that is due to use of chemicals in agriculture.

    I enjoyed reading the link you provided by Lukianoff. I have not read “The Coddling of the American Mind” but I plan to now.


    December 5, 2021 at 7:57 AM

    • Like you, I initially thought the spider might have been a bunch of small cracks in the fungus. Zooming in on that area in the full-size image confirmed that a spider was really there. And also like you I imagined reasons for the spider’s two missing legs and considered the same possibilities you did. Your comment about seeing lots of deformities in the woodlands makes me wonder if zoologists have done surveys to estimate the average percent of deformities in various organisms at different stages of their lives. I’d expect the percent of deformities to go up as an organism ages and encounters diseases, weather, predators, and other threats to integrity. To what extent agricultural or other chemicals are a factor remains a controversial topic.

      From your comments over the past year, I think you’ll enjoy The Coddling of the American Mind.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2021 at 8:12 AM

      • Intriguing. I imagine that it would be hard for a spider to survive the loss of legs – if it has, they must be tough little creatures. Disease must be a strong possibility, but I do wonder about the possibility of deformity being caused by chemicals used in the area.

        Ann Mackay

        December 5, 2021 at 1:14 PM

        • I expect we’ll never know the cause in this instance. Maybe entomologists have studied limb loss more generally and have determined the various causes and how often each occurs.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 5, 2021 at 2:49 PM

  3. Over the years I’ve noticed fascinating shapes and colors of these organisms — never captured in an image to my satisfaction.


    December 5, 2021 at 8:26 AM

  4. I wonder how this little spider has lost its two legs. It appears to be a significant loss, with two legs missing on the left side.

    Peter Klopp

    December 5, 2021 at 8:32 AM

    • The fact that the two missing legs were on the same side could be a clue but I don’t know what to make of that fact.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2021 at 8:37 AM

  5. This looks like a well-weathered, venerable fungus. I wonder if it’s possible to determine the age of a fungus by counting some of its components, similar to counting tree rings.


    December 5, 2021 at 10:22 PM

  6. Cool subject. Some closer macro studies might be interesting too.


    December 8, 2021 at 5:23 PM

    • I did take a few more-abstract pictures that got in even closer to the shelf fungi. I decided to show this one for context, given that you can see the whole thing outlined.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2021 at 5:38 PM

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