Pictures: Fungi Get Into the Holiday Spirit

Photograph courtesy Stephanie Mounaud, J. Craig Venter Institute

Mounaud combined different fungi to create a Santa hat and spell out a holiday message.

Different fungal grow at different rates, so Mounaud's artwork rarely lasts for long. There's only a short window of time when they actually look like what they're suppose to.

"You do have to keep that in perspective when you're making these creations," she said.

For example, the A. flavus fungi that she used to write this message from Santa grows very quickly. "The next day, after looking at this plate, it didn't say 'Ho Ho Ho.' It said 'blah blah blah,'" Mounaud said.

The message also eventually turned green, which was the color she was initially after. "It was a really nice green, which is what I was hoping for. But yellow will do," she said.

The hat was particularly challenging. The fungus used to create it "was troubling because at different temperatures it grows differently. The pigment in this one forms at room temperature but this type of growth needed higher temperatures," Mounaud said.

Not all fungus will grow nicely together. For example, in the hat, "N. fischeri [the brim and ball] did not want to play nice with the P. marneffei [red part of hat] ... so they remained slightly separated."

Published December 21, 2012

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