Mysteries Solved

159286754_jm2ksmThis week I had two such mysteries--the alien onion-y flowers growing in the community garden (here and here and here) and the funky fungus growing in my planter box at home (here).

As to the flowers, I began by asking several co-workers who also garden--anybody have any idea what these could be?  One chuckled at the oddity of the flowers, another bravely tried a bite of one and ventured that they tasted like chives.  But no guesses.

Then, one night as I was out watering at the community garden, I ran into a lady that has gardened there for several years.  I hadn't ever spoken to her before, but it seemed like a good excuse.  She was able to tell me the flowers have been there for at least six years--from the time the communal herb garden was first planted.  She wasn't sure what they were either, but offered that they were probably some kind of perennial onion or chive.

After spending an hour searching for all variations of "perennial onion", I had almost given up on getting a definitive answer.  Then Janet saw my second post about the flowers and suggested, "Could that be a walking onion?"  I wasn't sure at first from the initial picture she sent, but the description was spot on so I did an image search of my own.  Sure enough, she was right.  Onion-y, alien flowers they are no longer--we have Egyptian Walking Onions!

The funky fungus was even more of a mystery.  Since I have carrots that are just about ready to eat growing in the same area, I really needed to know what it was.  I didn't want anyone to get sick. 

So I sent an email to the mushroom farm we visited on the farm tour.  Their verdict was that it was probably some type of crust fungus.  The email also mentioned the term "slime mold". 

I was invited to bring a sample to a Kaw Valley Mycological Society meeting to have it examined further, but sadly was unable to go.  (However, this group in and of itself was a new discovery for me--I've always wanted to learn more about mushrooms, and I think I may have to attend in the future.)  The response gave me a jumping off point though.  I started searching for "crust fungus" and "white crust fungus" with no luck.  When I tried "while slime mold" however, I hit the jackpot.  The bottom, left picture here looks exactly like what's growing in my planter box. 

The description also fits perfectly, "With the rains come the vast array of slime molds (also known as dog-vomit fungi)....Slime molds get their nutrients from dead organic matter, such as mulch."  There is a layer of wood chip mulch from last year mouldering just under the dirt in my box.  Further, with all the rain we've had this year nothing has had the chance to dry out properly.

Armed with a name (although not necessarily an appealing one) I found this page which says a) slime mold is not harmful if ingested, b) I'm lucky to have such an unusual thing growing in my yard, and c) I should look at it under magnification and see if I don't think it's completely beautiful then.

I dutifully pulled out Sweet Husband's jewelers loop, and, wouldn't you know it...incredible!

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Beautiful dog-vomit fungus--unexpected indeed!