In late April I was strolling through the woods near Burney Falls, California when I happened upon this odd display on the forest floor. I halted and uttered, “oooh.” This was a rather peculiar organism I had not yet encountered. I circled the porous, sponge/fungus-like creature with great interest. I sat on my haunches and assumed my curiosity at a closer range now that I knew it wasn’t going to spring legs and jump on my face to eat me.
As any good curious-by-nature creature would do, I gently poked my new friend to gain an understanding of its texture. How soft are you? I found out it was very soft and indeed a water-filled sponge. Water seeped out of its crevices when I gently poked it with a small twig. I put my nose as close to the critter as I could to get a smell sample – it smelled organic and forest fresh! At the edges of the main body of this seemingly harmless organism were what appeared to be spiderweb-like extensions onto the forest floor. I began to wonder what ecological conditions would allow such a delicate and water filled organism to form. Obviously water is an important ingredient. The sponge was about 30 yards away from the beautiful Burney Creek, and a half-mile downstream from the waterfall. I could not find my its family anywhere else in the forest. He/she was the only one of its kind in the immediate area. I’m sure there were more, but to no avail I couldn’t find a trend in this species. I did happen upon many interesting bugs though. I might have been distracted by the bugs for an hour or so before I remembered my mission to find my sponge’s family and let them know they weren’t alone and that their brother/sister was doing splendid.
After an entire day of burying my nose in moss, holding exotic bugs, sleeping by a spring-thaw driven creek and trying to unite a fungus with it’s family, I grew tired and needed to retire. I, later, showed the picture to one of my biologist friends and she told me what it was, but now I completely forget what it was she told me it was! I tried describing it on the internet to see if I could match a picture with it, but could not get an accurate match. The closest I came was what someone called a White Sponge Fungi. I’m not sure that that is what this is. Anyway, that fungus really made my day. It was a delight to have met such a simple yet perplexing organism.
– Vince Stevenson