Fantastic Fungi

As a child I was always fascinated by mysterious old Chinese medicine shops with all their weird and wonderful bits of dried and shrivelled Nature. Most interesting of all were the different dried mushrooms that, depending on type, could be used for correcting health problems, or added to an unusual and healthy-giving dish in the kitchen. I still love the look of fungi today in both their living and dried forms. (Or more accurately, as my husband tells me, the fruiting bodies of fungi.)

Lingzhi - The mushroom of immortality!

Lingzhi – The mushroom of immortality!

The last time I visited Hong Kong I photographed some fungi in a health shop which stirred up even more childhood associations. These were the mushroom known as “Lingzhi” which featured in many of the books I read in my youth. This rare fungus (Ganoderma lucidum) has been used in Chinese medicine for 2,000 years and many accounts attributed it with life extending powers. In more recent times it has found a regular place in literature as a fabled elixir of life, and featured in many of the Martial Arts novels I read in my teens. Seeing them lying in a shop, piled in an old cardboard box, rather spoiled the myth!

Lingzhi (Ganoderma lucidum)

Lingzhi (Ganoderma lucidum)

Lingzhi (Ganoderma lucidum) Legend of my youth

Lingzhi (Ganoderma lucidum) Legend of my youth

Another type of dried fungus

Another type of dried fungus

I also love fungi growing in nature, where they can suddenly appear like exotic aliens overnight. I have now tried to start photographing any new types I see, though our voracious Cornish slugs seem to attack and disfigure many before I get there.

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