Coccomyces dentatus

We’ll be starting a series from Katherine either tomorrow or Monday on “white-flowered medicinal plants”. That series will, for the most part, conclude her contributions as a work-study student. Today’s article, though, is written by Bryant Deroy, who is joining us as a work-study student over the summer (funded by your many kind contributions). Bryant writes:

A big thank you to Richard Droker for this striking image of Coccomyces dentatus, which has colonized the dead leaf of a Berberis nervosa (syn. Mahonia nervosa).

Information on Coccomyces dentatus is extremely hard to come by and some sleuthing was required to dig up the details on this species of fungus. Coccomyces are a genus of foliicolous fungi, meaning that they colonize the leaves of vascular plants. Coccomyces dentatus can be found on the dead and decaying foliage of a number of other species including Gaultheria shallon, Arbutus menzeisii, other Berberis spp., Castanea spp., Quercus spp., and Rhododendron spp. among many others.

The black spots are hexagonally-shaped ascocarps made up of six triangular “flaps” that open upon maturity to allow the fertile spores within to be released. Richard has some close-up photos of this process. The borders that form the mosaic patterns occur where two mycelia contact each other and are sexually incompatible. The distribution of this species is widespread, although it appears to be most prominent in temperate zones. The staining and mosaic patterns vary greatly, this example being the most visually stunning that I have come across.

Coccomyces dentatus

11 responses to “Coccomyces dentatus”

  1. Claire B., Saskatoon

    That is stunning! The close-ups of the ascocarps in the link are even more amazing.

  2. Ann Kent HTM

    Wonderful image. Mahonia leaves often presents some interesting patterns and colours when ‘under attack’ but I have never seen anything as striking as this. As we were recently looking at mahonia plants while doing some plant studies at the UBC Botanical Garden, today’s post is on its way to all my students. Thank you, Richard.

  3. Dsh

    At first glance, this looked like a map!

  4. Mark Egger

    Brillant! Great photo + rich botanical content = worthy of botany photo of the day!

  5. Diana Ferguson

    Amazing – could this be the best yet? You should be so proud of this pic.

  6. Florida Plantsman

    Nature never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Peony Fan

    Amazing photo and fascinating write-up–a great beginning to my day. Thank you.

  8. Linda Young

    That is so very beautiful!!! Now I will never be able to look at a decaying leaf without thinking about failed romances 🙂
    Thank you for sharing this Daniel – it’s just wonderful!

  9. natalie barringer

    What a beautiful surprise to see on your site. It is indeed stunning,I am almost speechless. No human artist could ever create something like this. Thanks for sharing this wonder of nature.

  10. elizabeth a airhart

    art mimics nature does it not looks to be right out of moma
    the ahta news letter comes into my e mail box miss ann
    thank you daniel and company

  11. hong

    At my first glance, I hardly believed my eyes that it is a plant, it just seems like a pretty map. Reading the article I knew it is a rare and precious species. This plant really has luck to be so rich colorful and unique.

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