Mushroom & Friends Issue 2 is available now on loremnotipsum.com. The second installment of Phyllis Ma’s Mushrooms & Friends expands on the photography of foraged and cultivated mushrooms in phantasmagoric settings. Familiar gilled mushrooms are featured alongside spongy, stalkless and club-like fungi. The collection is then juxtaposed with visceral props – a sliced orange powdered with tumeric, purple daisies on green sugar, the veiny texture of a cabbage leaf – and transformed into otherworldly, Dr. Seussian assemblages.
The cultivated mushrooms featured include Cordyceps militaris, a medicinal species that uncannily resembles Cheetos. The fungus is tricky to grow and US cultivation has only begun recently in 2015. In the wild, it feeds on moth larvae; whereas in the lab, it subsists on a healthy, conservative diet of brown rice.
On the other end of the spectrum are wild specimens from New York and Berlin, growing in places where one might least expect life to thrive. In Brooklyn, blewits and boletes emerge between ornate Victorian headstones in Green-Wood Cemetery. Across the ocean, amanitas and shaggy manes play hide-and-seek near the ruins of a Soviet-era American spy station nestled in Grunewald Forest.
Perhaps the most exciting (and creepy) discovery is a parasitic mushroom in the genus Tolypocladium. Like a creature from a sci-fi horror film, its fungal spores infiltrate cicadas, feeding on their insides. Eventually, fruiting bodies rupture through the insect’s head and rise through mossy ground like zombie fingers. The macabre mushroom, currently awaiting DNA sequencing, could possibly turn out to be an undescribed species.
These are but a few backstories that have inspired this issue of Mushrooms & Friends. Each mushroom portrayed is unique and carries within it a cosmos of mysteries. Václav Hálek, a Czech composer, understood this well. In his lifetime, he created about 6,000 compositions by listening attentively to mushrooms. He describes what he hears: “The first is that the mushroom is pleased that I have noticed it…it wants to show me what it is and why it is in this world. Then a composition arises.” He adds affectionately, “Sometimes I give them a wink when I hear the music.”
Mushroom & Friends is a publication from Phyllis Ma, a New York-based artist working in still life photography and animation. She was a co-founder of LAZY MOM, a food art collaboration active from 2014–2018.
Details: Mushrooms & Friends – Issue 2
32 pages, 28 × 21.5 cm, Softcover