Saturday, 7 April 2012



The Delicate Beauty of Mushroom Gills in Macro
By Yohani,
Environmental Graffiti, 4 April 2012.

From the toadstools of fairy tales to the exotic shiitake of Japan, mushrooms have held a place in our imaginations - and on our dinner plates - for centuries. In this series of photographs, however, you'll see a more unfamiliar side of fungi - close-ups of the fragile and tender gills that are usually tucked away beneath the cap.

Mushroom gills 2Photo: publik_oberberg
Our first mushroom has long been a favourite with children's book illustrators. But here, instead of the familiar red and white spotted cap of the Fly Agaric mushroom, are the more subdued, but just as lovely, colours and textures of the gills on its underside.

Mushroom gills 1Photo: Claudio Pia
The plump fleshiness of this mushroom's stalk contrasts with its delicate coral-coloured gills or 'lamellae’. These fragile folds are not just beautiful; they disperse the mushroom's reproductive spores - without which we wouldn't have any more mushrooms!

Mushroom gills 4Photo: Kip Taylor-Brown
Looking at this mushroom, you almost expect it to burst into flames! The striking ember colours of this photograph make it look less like something you'd eat, and maybe more like something you would cook on...

Mushroom gills 5Photo: Atli
Out of the fire and into the sun! This bright yellow Amanita Crocea mushroom looks almost too gaudy to be natural, and definitely isn't something you would miss if you saw it on the forest floor. The distinctive colour also gives this mushroom its alternative name: the Saffron Ringless Amanita.

Mushroom gills 6Photo: Brian J Kelly
At first glance, you might mistake this as a close-up photograph of a book. You probably won't be able to read much on those creamy white pages, though, unless maybe you're a mushroom biologist, or a mycophagist - that is, someone who identifies and harvests mushrooms for eating. A pretty tasty hobby!

Mushroom gills 3Photo: publik_oberberg
Another look at the underside of a Fly Agaric mushroom. The bright light coming through the gills almost has the appearance of flames...which you may well be seeing if you're unlucky enough to eat one. Fly Agaric, along with certain other species of mushrooms, contain psychoactive compounds which can be used as a hallucinogenic.

Mushroom gills 7Photo: Thornberry!
When people refer to something as "mushroom-coloured", clearly they don't mean these mushrooms! This close-up photograph, which was taken in the early morning sun, certainly brings out the golden colours and delicate construction of this bright fungus.

Mushroom gills 8Photo: Janet Brian
If it were upside down, the gills on this mushroom could be mistaken for the folds of a swirling satin ball gown. Mushroom gills come in many different varieties, whether papery thin or thick like these, which is why they are so important when it comes to classifying different species.

Mushroom gills 9Photo: Lostash
Here we have a mushroom's gills in extreme close-up. Note the subtle colour, and the way they delicately curve and fold. As well as the thickness of the gills, the colour and shape of mushrooms help to give biologists clues as to what species they're looking at.

This bony looking ridge could belong to a dinosaur, or even be the tail of a fish! But of course, you'll know by now it's another elegant set of mushroom gills, this time with a delicate pink hue.

Mushroom gills 11Photo: nutmeg66
The wood blewit, or ‘blue stalk mushroom’, is actually more of a lilac colour than blue. Although it looks a little unappetizing, this mushroom is considered very good eating - you just have to make sure they're cooked first. Raw wood blewits can lead to a nasty case of indigestion, and even when cooked they can cause an allergic reaction. Take care if one ever shows up on your plate!

Mushroom gills12Photo: Eric Meyer
This exquisite mushroom stands like a transparent silk parasol against the morning sky. Filmy mushrooms like this can often materialize overnight, only to be gone again the following day. Their fleeting lifespans only enhance their fragile beauty, and make them all the more precious.

Mushroom gills 13Photo: Anne Elliott
If you look carefully at the end of this mushroom's gills, you can just make out the fine grains of a powder-like substance. These tiny grains are the mushroom's spores, which fall off the gills. They can even be as colourful as the gills themselves, ranging from white, yellow, brown and pink to black or even purple!

Mushroom gills 14Photo: Anne Elliott
Another lovely fin-like example of mushroom gills, this time with a little of the smooth outer covering of the cap visible at the top. Telling one mushroom from another can be tricky for amateurs, and since many are poisonous, it's safest not to eat any found in the wild unless you're certain they belong to an edible species.

Mushroom gills 15Photo: Anne Elliott
This little mushroom looks like a well-designed garden light! Here, we can clearly see that the gills are attached to the top of the stalk, but like the colour and thickness, their positioning is variable from species to species.

Mushroom gills 16Photo: Anne Elliott
We wonder if the satellite dish-shaped mushroom shown here is picking up any signals from the night sky! This particular cap shape is called ‘depressed’, and unlike most of the other mushrooms we've looked at so far, the gills on this one are of varying lengths. The colour combination of the white and yellow is particularly striking, almost making it look like a daisy.

Mushroom gills 17Photo: Anne Elliott
Here's a mushroom with another interestingly shaped cap. The depression in this one is so deep it’s almost inside out, with the gills prominently displayed. This type of cap has a specific name too, but it's a bit more of a mouthful than ‘depressed’: it's actually called ‘infundibuliform’!

Mushroom gills 18Photo: Bram van Broekhoven
Although these two seem to have a pinky glow, the Porcelain mushroom is also known as the Poached Egg mushroom because of its white translucent colour. This variety is edible...if you're willing to get past its rather unpleasant, slimy coating!

With their different colours, shapes and sizes, all of these mushrooms are beautiful in their own way - and play important parts in the ecologies in which they live. Having seen these gorgeous photographs of their gills, perhaps next time you see a mushroom you'll be tempted to look underneath for a different view?

Sources: 1,2,3,4,5,6

[Source: Environmental Graffiti. Edited. Top image added.]

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