A little blue

Today in the Manchester Museum Herbarium I spent the day looking for mosses, lichens and fungi to fill one of the display cabinets for the upcoming exhibition Nature’s Library. These often underrepresented members of the botanical world presented a challenge when it came to display. Though they were rich in information, and extremely important scientifically, they were not very eye-catching. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but we had an entire case to fill.

I started by using a Collins Field Guide to see what species of Fungi were colourful. An illustration of a brilliant turquoise species known as Chlorociboria aeruginosa immediately stood out, so we set about finding it in the collection.

It’s well known that botanical specimens tend to lose their colour upon death, so we were concerned the specimens might have faded to a nondescript brown or black.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the first packet and saw blue wood!

It looked as if it had been dyed by food colouring. The fruiting bodies are apparently rarely seen, and you are more likely to see the stained blue wood when walking in the woodlands of the UK. We did, however have some fruiting bodies:

This fungus was also used to add a bit of colour to woodworking. You can see some examples by 14th and 15th century Renaissance Italian craftsmen on this page.

Chlorociboria in nature.

2 responses to “A little blue

  1. Pycnoporus cinnabarinus is another fungus that holds its color very well when dried, even over many years. There’s a lichen that often looks like lace which can also be a good display piece. I believe Ramalina menziesii. A fun moss because of its biology (and because one might have it still on bones) is Splachnum pensylvanicum. Good luck on the exhibit!

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