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Let’s Talk About Rot

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The natural world is full of so many incredible processes but one that maybe doesn’t get talked about enough is decomposition. Decomposition is the process by which organic substances rot and break down into simpler organic matter, reintroducing essential nutrients back into the soil.

In the forest, fungi are responsible for the majority of decomposition since they have the ability to break down wood and the cellulose in plant cell walls. The two best-known types of decay by fungi are brown rot and white rot.

For brown rot fungi, their mycelia degrade the cellulose and hemicellulose that is present in the wood that they inhabit. As a result of this form of decay, the wood turns to a deep brown colour and breaks down in chunks that are more or less cube-like. Brown rot fungi are especially common on the wood of conifers but can also be found on hardwoods. Chicken of the Woods is an example of a brown rot fungus

Differently, the mycelia of white rot fungi degrade the lignin, but not the cellulose, of the wood that they inhabit. This results in a pretty characteristic stringy, whitish decay of the wood. White rot fungi are mostly found on hardwoods. Artist’s bracket is an example of a white rot fungus.

Keep and eye out for signs of brown rot and white rot on your next visit to High Park!