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.
Source: “ Impatiens ” (My First Garden Dictionary, U of Illinois Extension) accessed 2014-07-12
Image Credit » http://mushroomobserver.org/image/show_image/48568