Daedelus was an Athenian architect who built a labyrinth for King Minos to imprison the offspring of his wife and a white bull – the Minotaur (half human, half bull). It’s a complicated story. You can read it here. I mention Daedelus for the sake of two fungus species that are named in his honor – two whose undersides are labyrinthal. (And as long as we’re talking about religion, imagine my surprise when I googled “labyrinthal” to see (a) if it is a real word and (b) if so, how to spell it… and I found an ad for a religion! I don’t know how often the ads change on the Free Dictionary… the ad I’m talking about is gone now. But when I put this link here, one of the ads for the word labyrinthal was the UUA. Go UUs! They seem to be advertising everywhere these days! Did you see them in Time Magazine?) OK… Back to Fungi:
Disclaimer: I’m no mycologist. I’m basing my identification on a couple of line drawings and word descriptions in Donald Stokes’ A Guide to Nature in Winter. So please!!! If you see I’ve misidentified something here, tell me! But I think I have the two common species of Daedalia mentioned in his book. See if you agree.
Daedalia confragosa is “fairly thin, corky, and speckled brown on top.” The underside is “partly gilled and partly mazelike, or all mazelike” with partitions that are “as thin as paper, presenting a delicate and intricate pattern.” I found mine on a fallen tree. You might think that would have made the underside easy to photograph… but no! The tree fell right over a puddle, which on this particular day was not completely frozen. I had to stand in water over my ankles to get the picture you see here. Oh the sacrifices I make for you, my reader… hahahaha
I’m guessing this one is Daedalia quercina. Stokes reports that this variety is “heavier-set” and that when young, it is stark white turning brown or black with age. The partitions underneath are thicker than paper and the pattern is “less intricate and more simple and bold.”
I also found this information from Stokes’ guide interesting: Bracket fungi are sometimes divided into to two groups depending on which parts of the wood they “digest”. D. confragosa is in the group that produces “White Rot” by dissolving mainly the lignin from the cell walls. This leaves the wood white, spongy, and fibrous. D. quercina produces “Brown Rot,” also known as “Dry Rot,” by dissolving only the cellulose, leaving the wood brown and crumbly, often breaking into small cubes.
I know what you’re thinking: you’ve seen trees in both states of decomposition, haven’t you? Now you know why!
And hey, by the way… if you were going to advertise in the Free Dictionary, next to what word would you want your ad to appear?