Fungus of the day #14
Well, I’m trying something new out. A theme for the week. The week starts Monday and ends Sunday. This week’s theme is imitation


Claviceps purpurea



Hallucinogenic, deadly

The ergot fungus grows across the world, making a home on cereal crops and grasses. Most prevalently, the fungus can be found all across Europe and Scandinavia. The fungus is found in essentially every major European country, including Ireland, the UK, Portugal, Spain, France, Turkey, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and many many others. In Africa, the fungus can be found as far up as Sudan going as far down as South Africa. However, ergot cannot be found in places that have dry deserts of wet rainforests like Congo, Angola, and Namibia. The ergot is found in only one place in China but prevalently in India and Nepal. Found in Japan, Russia, and Kazakhstan, the ergot continues south into Indonesia, Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. Across the pacific ocean, ergot can be found minimally in Canada, and in America, specimens exist in Kansas and New Jersey in the east but are more prevalently found in the west in states like Oregon, Washington, and California. The ergot continues south to Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay.

The fungus is parasitic, finding suitable hosts in the cereal crops and grasses of the countries it stakes a claim in. There are different subspecies of ergot that have preferences to different types of terrain. Some ergots prefer land grasses with open fields and meadows, hence the appearance of some ergot in Kansas. Some grasses formed in mountainous regions with thick forests and plenty of moisture may find themselves susceptible to having an unwelcome guest grow on them. Or another extreme, the ergot also grows on grasses found in salt marshes.

The ergot is quite simple in appearance. It’s typically brown and grows trying to resemble a grain of rye to trick farmers into not destroying the ergot, as it feeds on the grasses and crops that farmers produce. It forms from the plant ovaries and bears orange fruiting bodies that resemble mushrooms after the proper nutrients have been reaped from the host plant

The ergot kernel develops when a floret of flowering grass or cereal is infected by a spore of ergot. The infection process mimics a pollen grain growing into an ovary during fertilization. Due to the nature of ergot development requiring an exposed stigma, it’s mainly species that rely on outcrossing, like rye. The mycelium that grows from the fungus after the invasion of the plant slowly destroys the plant ovary and connects with the part of the plant intended to grow seeds. After this, the ergot infection begins. It grows into a soft white tissue that produces honeydew. This honeydew appendage millions and millions of asexual ergot spores. These spores are dispersed to other florets via insects. After sporing, the ergot falls to the ground and starts to develop fruiting bodies with a stalk and cap, like a small mushroom. Those fruiting bodies then create even more spores, and the life cycle is complete

Ergots produce an alkaloid called alkaloid ergotamine. Whenever an appropriate dose of alkaloid ergotamine is consumed, the consumer (whether it be animal or human) receives a disease called ergotism. Ergotism causes extreme burning sensations in the body. Other symptoms of ergotism include muscle spasms, fever, hallucinations, the appearance of being dazed, manic tendencies, inability to speak, paralysis, tremors, and distorted perceptions. Some cases even result in death

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Ergot growing on wheat