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Attractive Characters in Fungi



THIS subject, which has been introduced by a letter from a correspondent (November 6, p. 9), is one of considerable interest, but it is one also of great mystery and difficulty. In dealing with fungi of the mushroom type we are in contact with a class of plants so different from Phanerogams that it is at once evident that we must not draw the same conclusions from a similar series of initial facts. It is well known that certain fungi possess strong and characteristic odours, and others very conspicuous colours, both of which features are presumed to have some value in the biography of the plant, but what influence and what value it is not so easy to determine as in the case of plants in which cross-fertilization has to be effected. It is by no means certain that there is any special act of fertilization at all; it is even doubtful if any fertilizing element exists. For nearly a century it has been thought possible to find a fecundating element in Agarics, but all efforts at demonstration have failed.1 Most of these investigations have been directed to the cystidia, large cells which are recognized as projecting, more or less, on the surface of the hymenium, but these could not be identified with any known process of fecundation.2 M. de Seynes, after patiently investigating the hymenium of the Hymenomycetes, arrived at a negative result, and this has not since been disturbed. “The hymenium,” he says, “has not yet offered an organ which we may suppose in reality to be the male organ;” and he adds, “one sole and self-same organ is the basis of it, according as it experiences an arrest of its development; as it grows and fructifies, or as it becomes hypertrophied, it gives us a paraphysis, a basidium, or a cystidium; in other terms, atrophied basidium, normal basidium, hypertrophied basidium: these are the three elements which form the hymenium. Does it develop either outside the hymenium or on the hymenium, at a time, or in a part which has not yet been discovered, organs which yield pollen, spermatia, antherozoids, or any other fecundating agent? This is what remains to be discovered.”1


  1. 1

    De Bary, "Morphologie und Physiologie der Pilze," cap. v.

  2. 2

    See Grevillea, vol. i. (1873), p. 181.

  3. 3

    Grevillea, vol. ii. p. 41.

  4. 4

    Grevillea, vol. iv. (1875), p. 53.

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