Launch of Planted: Stories From Manitoba’s Natural World

It’s been a while since I’ve been here. But I’m here to tell you a bit about what I’ve been up to.

For the past year, I’ve been planning, researching, and writing a creative non-fiction book called Planted: Stories From Manitoba’s Natural World. And now, I can finally share it with you.

I’m having a launch on March 2 at McNally Robinson Grant Park at 7 p.m. There’s going to be a seed swap, I’ll read a passage from the book, and Laura Reeves and John Morgan will be on a panel discussion about Manitoba plants and fungi.

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Gimme mo’ bananas

Your banana and my banana are related.

Well, both bananas are actually the same. They are clones of each other (from identical plants). This means we can cultivate exactly which banana we want. (Ever noticed how there are no seeds in bananas? That’s thanks to the monoculture crop.) There are over 1,000 varieties of bananas, but the kind we most often buy is the Cavendish.

What could a downside be of an identical banana crop?

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Chug some chaga

You’re walking through a forest in northern Canada, the United States, Asia, or Europe, and you see something scaly and charcoal-like on the side of a birch tree. You approach cautiously — what could this growth be? You pull out your foraging knife or hatchet to cut off the growth and save it for later because you are sure it will make a tasty tea.

And you may be right if you cut off the parasitic fungus chaga (Inonotus obliquus).

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Honey, honey

Mushrooms. You either love them, or you have no soul.

Manitoba’s edible mushroom game is strong. Morels, chicken of the woods, chanterelles, and my favourite, the honey mushroom.

The common name, “honey mushroom,” includes various species in the genus Armillaria.

Honey mushrooms in Manitoba grow in late September. The timing varies, depending on the temperature and rainfall. Honey mushrooms do well in damp, woodland habitats. They grow in soil and decompose tree stumps. You can read about honey mushrooms in Barron’s Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada.

Mushrooms have complicated structures. The typical mushroom looking part is the fruiting body. Individual fruiting bodies are connected by hyphae, which are thread-like tubes. Hyphae can fuse into rhizomorphs.

This means when you see lots of honey mushrooms, you’re likely looking at only one or two organisms.

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From slug to slime mould

A low quality photo taken on a low quality camera in St. Andrews, MB.
A low quality photo of Stemonitis sp. taken on a low quality camera on a twig in St. Andrews, MB.

Slime moulds: Not always slimy and not really mouldy.

As Barron writes, they share properties of both animals and fungi, which makes them difficult to classify.

They are amoeboid, which means they engulf particles by changing their shape.

Slime moulds have stationary stages, like the fruiting body photo of Stemonitis sp. at the top of this post, and motile stages. Dictyostelium discoideum*  has an amazing use of motility.

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