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  • Writer's picturebiancatainsh

The Puffball Experiments

Day 1 to day 5

Scleroderma. A mutualist mycorrhizal fungus that grows in partnership with the roots of Allocasuarina and Eucalyptus, or related species. I found this puffball despite this dry spell before the start of fungi season in South East Queensland next month. With a hole already in its shell the specimen was compromised. But as a first experiment (and as someone who embraces happy accidents wholeheartedly) it would do for now. The violet spore inside the shell was promising, if not a little alluring.

To get a feel for the outcomes of contamination vs sterilisation, different substrates (what it’s growing in/on) and spores vs existing mycelium, I set up a series of experiments to explore these variations in approach for growing outcomes and visual possibilities. I also want to test recycled materials, and situations that may be more familiar to the fungi as an alternative to the sterile, processed materials usual used in growing fungi.

Experiment 1

Experiment 1: Was the clump of mycelium rich dirt that was attached to the base of the puffball. It was placed on a bed of sterilised coffee grounds and doused with homemade MEA, a nutritional liquid usually mixed with agar in a petri dish (a recycled takeaway container for me).

Experiment 2: The spore inside the puffball had already solidified and was showing the first fluffy strands of mycelium growth. I placed a slither of the spore in the centre of a bed of sterilised coffee grounds and doused it with the nutritional liquid. This one is slow to show signs. Mycelium is gradually emerging.

Experiment 3: This one was a renegade. I collected soil below leaf litter from a patch of undisturbed bush. Roots and mycelium were already present. I placed a eucalyptus leaf already being consumed by mycelium on the bed of soil and doused it all with the nutritional liquid. A gumnut was already part of the tangle.

Experiment 3

Container 4: I used the same soil as Container 3, but I sterilised it first. I placed a slither of the spore in the centre of the sterilised Earth, and doused it with the nutritional liquid. This is also slow to show signs. Mycelium gradually emerging.

For art and curiosity’s sake: I created an archival print from a photograph of the puffball on fine art bamboo paper, and placed the print in the bottom of a salvaged fish tank. I poured enough of the nutritional liquid to make the print wet but not floating. A slither of spore was placed over the hole in the puffball in the image. The paper was not sterilised. The tank was not properly sterilised and not fully sealed. Transformation began. A more natural situation where fungi and bacteria share the field.

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