By in Gardening

Reproduction: Nature is Faster Than a Speeding Bullet!

In an earlier post I used a photo of impatiens flowers to illustrate my impatience , But of course that got me wondering why these pretty little blossoms were ever given the name. So as I often do, I dug a little.

It turns out that the impatiens develops a seed pod, and when the pods open all the seeds shoot out. The fact that the seeds are dispersed in this way, rather than just dropping onto the ground or being carried away on the wind, gave them their name. (It's impatiens rather than the English form, because Latin is commonly used for scientific names.)

Of course being one of those people who likes to follow the rabbit trails in life, I recognized the similarity between impatiens seed dispersal and the dispersal of mushroom spores. And coincidentally, I had just watched a BBC production called The Magic of Mushrooms , that showed how a tiny fungus that grows on cow dung is actually the “fastest” organism on earth.

The BBC video may not be accessible to everyone, but I found a really great demonstration on YouTube that I believe can be viewed anywhere in the world. It's from a series called Earth Unplugged , and this episode is “ Fungus Cannon .” It shows how the dispersal of Pilobilus spores is actually faster than a bullet being fired from a rifle, or shot from a shotgun!

The fungus in the photo isn't the Pilobolus (which really isn't terribly attractive, as illustrations for articles go!) Instead I chose a really pretty mushroom called the indigo milk cap, or Lactarius indigo . Apparently it's edible - not as delicious as some others, but people do collect it for food.

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Image credit: This gorgeous photo of a Lactarius indigo mushroom was taken by Dan Molter (aka shroomydan)/Mushroom Observer ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Source: Impatiens ” (My First Garden Dictionary, U of Illinois Extension) accessed 2014-07-12

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bestwriter wrote on July 12, 2014, 8:17 PM

That applies to weeds as well. If weeding is done without the roots being pulled out they will be back in no time multiplied may be 10 times of more.

Anja wrote on July 12, 2014, 8:21 PM

Some Petunias do it the same way - with seed pods that burst open and shoot the seeds out.

Ruby3881 wrote on July 12, 2014, 8:25 PM

Cool! I'll have to look that up. I wonder, are petunias and impatiens in the same family?

Ruby3881 wrote on July 12, 2014, 8:28 PM

It sounds like you're talking about two different phenomena, there. If the roots not being pulled out is the key factor, the weed in question is probably spreading through the roots, rather than by seed pods exploding.

One "weed" I can think of that has a pod that splits open is the milkweed, which we grew in our yard for the butterflies. The young seed pod is actually edible, and we have cooked with them :D

bestwriter wrote on July 12, 2014, 8:37 PM

You are right. There are several weeds that have pods that contribute to the mess around. Parthenium is a good example of that.

When something is edible it is no longer a weed. Right? (lol)

LadyDuck wrote on July 13, 2014, 3:33 AM

I like mushrooms, it is true that they grow so fast. It rained a lot last week, this morning is sunny and I see my lawn covered with mushrooms. I do not dare to eat them because I am not sure if they are good or not.

Ruby3881 wrote on July 13, 2014, 5:09 AM

My personal feeling is that very few plants really are weeds. Most of the plants we call weeds have a purpose - as food, medicine, or in some other commercial or domestic use. Dandelion, milkweed, clover, chicory, Queen Anne's lace, plantain, stinging nettle, and many other weeds common to North America all have at least one beneficial use - but all are considered weeds.

I am not familiar with the Parthenium, as it doesn't grow in my region, but I was able to see that while two of the species in this genus are invasive, at least one other is at risk.

Ruby3881 wrote on July 13, 2014, 5:11 AM

ou are right to avoid mushrooms unless you have an experienced person who is confident of their identification! Some mushrooms are so deadly that eating half the cap would lead to a slow and very painful death. It really isn't worth the risk, but at least if they grow in our yards we can admire their beauty :)

LadyDuck wrote on July 13, 2014, 5:19 AM

I agree, they are not worth the risk, but they are so nice.

bestwriter wrote on July 13, 2014, 5:20 AM

I am kind of a pro active and so I have been telling authorities to root out weeds that grow on the sides of roads before they start flowering but it falls on deaf ears. There is money for them to contract that job each year.

I have several flowers that bloom in my garden which in fact are wild flowers. Roses were once considered so.

MegL wrote on July 13, 2014, 10:25 AM

I saw the video you speak about - with the fungus cannon - it was really interesting. I have heard a "weed" defined as plant that grows in a place that you don't want it to, which means that grass in your flower bed is a weed, while on your lawn, it is a useful plant.

Ruby3881 wrote on July 13, 2014, 8:45 PM

In my opinion, grass is almost always a weed! If the land really needs a ground cover to reduce erosion, there are far more useful crops to grow. The types of grass people make lawns out of are very high-maintenance. They require water, fertilizer, weeding and mowing, but they are not edible. They are often highly susceptible to damage from too much sun or too little water. And many people actually have a grass allergy.

Grass is a nuisance that could easily be replaced with more suitable ground covers that are hardy, edible or otherwise useful to the environment, and low-maintenance. It is a weed.

k_mccormick2 wrote on July 15, 2014, 11:09 AM

I love the image you chose. I never knew there was a blue mushroom. It sure does look pretty. I must be living under a rock as I didn't know anything that you posted in this article. Oh my looks like I need to start educating myself a bit better. I think that I am slowly learning more and more while I am writing online. Hope that you are relaxing this morning momma :)

Ruby3881 wrote on July 15, 2014, 12:48 PM

I never knew there were blue mushrooms either! I happened upon this one at Wikipedia, just by chance. But oh yes, web writing does usually end up with us learning new things emoticon :grin:
Relaxing the best I can, Momma. The Bug is already up and talking about the BBQ. And MamaOzzy texted at about 7:30, while waiting for the duty officer to assign her tasks for the morning. We chatted briefly, but she'll probably call this afternoon. Wolf is sleeping in, and then I've got to figure out timings for everything. Banana has some running around (Gleaners, stuff for camp) and I guess we ought to stop in at Extra before heading out. And I have to get to the post office too....

Urgh! I'm going back to reading posts! It's going to be too busy today. I don't want to think about it right now....

JanetJenson wrote on August 2, 2014, 10:07 PM

That is one of the most beautiful fungi I have ever seen. It sure doesn't look edible at first glance. The Sublicious Farms site says that it turns green when you cut into it! A very much agree with your position that very few plants are actually weeds.

Ruby3881 wrote on August 3, 2014, 11:12 AM

I didn't realize that! how interesting. Thanks for sharing that tidbit emoticon :smile:
It really does look like it might be some sort of poisonous toadstool, doesn't it? Apparently it's got a strange (grainy, I think) texture that makes it less pleasant to eat than other mushrooms. So while it is safe, not everyone would choose to eat it. I'm not sure I'd be keen, but I suppose if offered I would try it at least once.