Accidental Art: Wood Painting with Fungi
❖ Fungus-infested wood, or spalt was once dismissed as inferior, structurally unsound and consigned to the scrap heap. But since the 1950’s, the Lindquists, a father and son wood turning team from the New York Adirondacks, changed the way we look at spalted wood. Today, the intricate swirls of bold lines, unexpected splotches of color and random patterns are a sculptor’s dream. Spalting has developed a niche market by adding economic value to a previously wasted resource.
❖ Science of Spalting: Oregon State University’s Sara Robinson (“Dr. Spalting”) has taken this accidental art and transformed it into science. By systematically testing different combinations of fungi, moisture, temperature and pH, Dr. Robinson creates beautiful wood specimen in the laboratory.
❖ The thick black lines that appear to artistically meander through the wood actually mark out fungal war zones! Formed by heavy deposits of black melanin pigment and hardened combinations of fungal filaments and wood, zone lines are used by antagonistic fungi of different species or even genetically distinct fungi of the same species to protect their own territory and resources. Bleached patches of wood that form a canvas for other colors are formed by white rot fungi that eat away at dark colored lignin leaving behind the lighter colored cellulose. Then there are the splotches of pigment: blues, greens and pinks, deposited by fungi that colonize wood in successive waves, each species leaving an environment that paves the way for another.
Ref: Developing fungal pigments for “painting” vascular plants. Sara C. Robinson Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2012) 93:1389–1394
Article about Dr. Spalting at OSU ▶ http://goo.gl/hDeZmx
This #ScienceEveryday post was inspired by Brent Neal pointing to a blog post by American Scientist ▶ http://goo.gl/ot6wt5