Bear’s Head Tooth Fungus

Bear’s head tooth fungus look like something from a fantasy dream.

  • Bear’s head tooth fungus is a species of fungus with a shaggy appearance, native to eastern parts of the United States.
  • The scientific name of the bear’s head tooth fungus is Hericium americanum and it is from the family Hericiaceae, a family of fungi.
  • ‘Bear’s head tooth fungi’ are also known as ‘bear’s head mushrooms’ and ‘pom pom blanc’, and were first scientifically described by James Ginns of Canada, in 1984.
  • Bear’s head tooth fungus was once classified as Hericium coralloides, however this name was later applied to a different species in the genus, hence the change.
  • The tooth-like appendages of bear’s head tooth fungus grow on branches as the fungus grows, and it forms to create a mop-like appearance.
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A Bear’s Head Tooth Fungus
Image courtesy of Brian Gratwicke/Flickr
  • Bear’s head tooth fungi grow on both rotting and living woods, mostly hardwood types, and they are typically seen in the wild during the late summer and autumn months, though they are able to be cultivated.
  • The ‘teeth’ of bear’s head tooth fungi reach 0.5 to 4 centimetres (0.2 to 1.6 inches) in length, and a whole fungus can spread to a total width of 15 to 30 centimetres (6 to 12 inches).
  • Bear’s head tooth fungus is a white colour, although as it becomes older, the teeth tend to have a yellow or brown tinge.
  • Young bear’s head tooth fungus can be cooked and eaten, having a taste comparable to that of lobster, though once picked the fungi do not store well, and need to be consumed within a couple of days, otherwise they will become bitter.
  • High amounts of vitamin D are found in bear’s head tooth fungus, and it also contains significant quantities of protein and fibre, as well as other beneficial health properties that are still being understood.
Bibliography:
Bear’s Head Mushrooms, n.d, Specialty Produce, http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Bears_Head_Mushrooms_11322.php
Emberger G, Hericium americanum, 2008, Messiah College, http://www.messiah.edu/Oakes/fungi_on_wood/teeth%20and%20spine/species%20pages/Hericium%20americanum.htm
Kuo M, Hericium americanum, 2003, Mushroom Expert, http://www.mushroomexpert.com/hericium_americanum.html
Volk T & Westmoreland S, Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month for January 2003, 2003, University of Wisconsin, http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/jan2003.html

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White Baneberry

Do you have that feeling that you are being watched… perhaps by the white baneberry?

  • White baneberries are a species of perennial wildflower, found in forests in the east of North America.
  • The white baneberry plant is also known as ‘doll’s eyes’, due to the plant’s berries having a similar appearance to antique doll’s eyes.
  • The scientific name of the white baneberry is Actaea pachypoda, and it is from the family Ranunculaceae, the family of buttercups.
  • White baneberry plants typically grow to be 46 to 76 centimetres (1.5 to 2.5 feet) in height, and they have a diameter of 60 to 90 centimetres (2 to 3 feet).
  • White coloured flowers are produced by white baneberries, and they feature from four to ten petals and many stamens.
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White Baneberry
Image courtesy of Benet/Flickr
  • White baneberry plants are known for their fruit that grow on maroon coloured branches, and the berries are coloured white with a centrally located black to purple spot, giving the appearance of an eye.
  • The blooms of white baneberries flower during the later months of spring and early summer, after which the berries are produced in summer.
  • White baneberry plants grow best in partly shady conditions or in full shade, in moist soil that drains well and contains a significant quantity of organic matter.
  • All parts of the white baneberry plant can be fatally toxic to most mammals, potentially causing cardiac arrest on consumption, although birds are able to consume the fruit.
  • The seeds of white baneberry fruits are dispersed through bird droppings, or by simply dropping from the plant.
Bibliography:
Actaea pachypoda, n.d, Encyclopedia of Life, http://eol.org/pages/595010/details
Actaea pachypoda, n.d, Missouri Botanical Garden, http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=h520
Actaea pachypoda, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actaea_pachypoda
Hilty J, Doll’s Eyes, 2015, Illinois Wildflowers, http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/woodland/plants/doll_eyes.htm

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Tunnel of Love

Walking along a track in the Tunnel of Love is (apparently) quite romantic!

  • The Tunnel of Love covers a portion of an industrial railroad track, found in the north-west of Ukraine in Europe, near the town of Klevan.
  • The Tunnel of Love railway passes through arches of lush vegetation, particularly trees.
  • The length of the Tunnel of Love is disputed, although most cite between 3 to 5 kilometres (1.9 to 3.1 miles) of the total 6.4 kilometres (4 miles) of track.
  • The train track along the Tunnel of Love was initially used in the Cold War to transport military equipment to a nearby secret military base, and the trees were planted beside the track to provide ample coverage so the operation would remain secret.
  • The Tunnel of Love is popular among lovers, and they will sometimes walk, or have photographs taken, along the track.
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The Tunnel of Love
Image courtesy of Marcin Grabski/Flickr
  • Up to three or more trains per day may pass through the Tunnel of Love, carrying loads of plywood from a nearby factory, although some days there are none.
  • Incidents have occurred in the Tunnel of Love, one of which was in 2015 when a Japanese women was hit by a train and as a result was injured.
  • The Tunnel of Love was made and is maintained by the trains clipping the forest trees when they travel along the railway.
  • When the Odek plywood factory removed some trees from the Tunnel of Love, many objections were made by the local people, and the factory hasn’t interfered with the trees since.
  • The Tunnel of Love was relatively unknown to the general public until it became widely popular on the internet in 2011, and as a result of its publicity through social media, it has since been visited by people from all over the world, and tourist numbers have significantly increased during the past few years.
Bibliography:
Lisa A, Ukraine‘s Leafy Green ‘Tunnel of Love’ is a Passageway for Trains and Lovers, 2016, Inhabitat, http://inhabitat.com/ukraines-tunnel-of-love-is-a-natural-passageway-for-trains-and-lovers/
Tunnel of Love (Railway), 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnel_of_Love_(railway)
The Story Behind Ukraine’s “Tunnel of Love”, 2016, Amusing Planet, http://www.amusingplanet.com/2016/04/the-story-behind-ukraines-tunnel-of-love.html
The Surprising Story Behind Ukraine’s ‘Tunnel of Love’, 2016, RadioFreeEurope, http://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-tunnel-of-love-cold-war-history/27700972.html

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Quince

Who would have known that a sour quince could become so sweet?

  • Quinces are a variety of fruit that originated in south-western Asia and the Middle East; and they contain a large proportion of pectin, enabling the cooked fruit to easily set into jellies and jams.
  • The scientific name of the tree that quinces grow on is Cydonia oblonga, from the family Rosaceae, the family of roses, and it is a close relative of pears and apples.
  • Quinces grow to an irregular shape spanning 7 to 12 centimetres (2.8 to 4.7 inches) in height, commonly with a slightly smaller diameter.
  • Most quinces are extremely bitter until being cooked, and combined with their tough texture, the fruit is generally quite impractical to eat raw.
  • The skin of quinces is a bright yellow, with flesh of a cream colour that generally becomes pink when cooked.

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  • Quinces are often made into preserves, baked desserts, sauces or jellies, as they are flavourful, and with a small quantity of sugar or other sweetener added, they develop a sweet taste.
  • Consuming a large quantity of quince fruit seeds at one time can cause a toxic gas to develop in the stomach, as the seeds react with stomach acids.
  • Quinces are scented with a pleasant fragrance and flavour, that is described as a combination of citrus, apples and vanilla.
  • Each hectare (2.5 acres) of quince trees typically produces from 25 to 35 tonnes (27.6 to 38.6 tons) of fruit, and Turkey was the largest producer in 2012 with around 135,000 tonnes (149,000 tons), which was more than 20% of the world’s production.
  • Quinces are good source of vitamin C and have significant quantities of copper, fibre and potassium.
Bibliography:
Campbell J, Quince Growing, 2001, NSW Government – Agriculture, http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/content/agriculture/horticulture/pomes/quince-growing
Durand F, Quince: The Tough Fall Fruit With a Secret Reward, 2014, Kitchn, http://www.thekitchn.com/quince-tough-fall-fruit-with-a-secret-reward-ingredient-intelligence-73041
Quince, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quince

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Jakkalskos

Jakkalskos have their own unique way of getting things done.

  • Jakkalskos is a species of parasitic, leafless plant, native to areas mostly in the south of the African continent.
  • ‘Jakkalskos’ is an Afrikaans term for the plant, which is also known as ‘bobbejaankos’ in Afrikaans, with respective literal meanings ‘jackal food’ and ‘baboon food’ in English.
  • The scientific name of the jakkalskos is Hydnora africana and it is from the family Hydnoraceae, a family of parasitic plants that flower.
  • Jakkalskos plants lack an above ground stem and develop almost entirely in the soil, only bursting forth from the ground to reveal their bloom once ample rain has occurred.
  • When mature, the height of the jakkalskos plant above ground, is simply the size of the flower, which typically grows to be 10 to 15 centimetres (4 to 6 inches) tall.
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A Jakkalskos Flower
Image courtesy of Derek Keats/Flickr
  • The bloom colour of a jakkalskos ranges from orange to pink or red, while the plant’s outer body is brown to black in colour, depending on the age of the flower.
  • Jakkalskos flowers emit a pungent smell, comparable to that of animal waste, which allures its pollinators, mostly carrion and dung beetles.
  • As a parasite, the jakkalskos plant’s thick root-like system will attach itself to the roots of a host plant of the Euphorbia genus, from which it leeches the other plant’s nutrients.
  • Filaments connect the sepals of the jakkalskos flower before it fully opens, and these serve as an obstacle to somewhat trap a beetle inside the flower to cause effective pollination, and once the flower develops and opens, the beetle is released.
  • After flowering, a jakkalskos plant usually produces a fruit in the soil, up to 8 cm (3 inches) in diameter, that contains roughly 20,000 seeds, and the fruit is edible and commonly eaten by some animals including jackals and baboons.
Bibliography:
Grant A, Hydnora Africana Plant Info – What Is Hydnora Africana, 2016, Gardening Know How, http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/hydnora/hydnora-africana-plant-info.htm
Hydnora Africana, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydnora_africana
Hydnora Africana, n.d, Botanical Society of America, http://botany.org/Parasitic_Plants/Hydnora_africana.php
Voigt W, Hydrona Africana, 2008, South African National Biodiversity Institute, http://www.plantzafrica.com/planthij/hydnorafric.htm

 

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Tamarillo

Meet the long lost cousin of the tomato – the tamarillo!

  • Tamarillos are a variety of fruit, comparable to the tomato, and they are native to South America.
  • New Zealanders gave the name ‘tamarillo’ to the ‘tree tomato’ fruit, a name it is also known by, in 1967 for commercial purposes, and the fruit is also called ‘tamamoro’, ‘tomate dulce’, ‘tomate granadilla’ and ‘tomate de árbol’ among other names.
  • The tamarillo grows on the plant with the scientific name Solanum betaceum, and it is from the family Solanaceae, the family of nightshades.
  • Tamarillos are somewhat ovoid in shape, and typically reach a length of 4 to 10 centimetres (1.6 to 4 inches) and have a diameter of 3.8 to 5 centimetres (1.5 to 2 inches).
  • The skin of tamarillos can be yellow, red, orange, or purple, while the flesh is often a similar colour to the skin but it sometimes differs.
Tamarillo, Fruit, Vegetable, Red, Fruit, Trivia, Ten Random Facts, Food, Culinary, Cut
  • Tamarallos grow on a tree with a height generally between 3 to 5.5 metres (10 to 18 feet); and a single tree can produce 20 to 30 kilograms (44 to 66 pounds) of fruit each year.
  • A tamarillo’s flavour varies with the colour, with red variants generally having a tart flavour, while the yellow varieties are typically sweet, having a flavour combination of kiwi or passion fruit and tomato.
  • While tamarillos can be eaten raw, often with a utensil that is used to spoon out the flesh, the tough bitter skin is usually left uneaten unless cooked; and the fruit is also popularly made into spreads, stews, curries and other sauces.
  • Tamarillos are very high in vitamin C and are good sources of vitamins A and E, as well as iron and pyridoxine.
  • Tamarillos have been cultivated in parts of Asia and Africa, and they have also been commercially grown in New Zealand since the 1920s, after which demand increased during World War II, due to the fruit’s vitamin C content.
Bibliography:
History, NZ Tamarillo Growers Association, 2008, http://www.tamarillo.com/history/
Tamarillo, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamarillo
https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/tree_tomato.html

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