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LAMS is a non-profit group whose purpose is to foster and expand the understanding and appreciation of mycology (that is the study of mushrooms and fungi).

We create and sponsor fun mushroom related events and help people learn about and identify mushrooms they find in the greater Los Angeles area.

December 18 (Monday) 7:30 PM LAMS General Meeting, Times-Mirror Meeting Room, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Speaker: Bob Cummings, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biological Sciences, Santa Barbara City College.

Program: "Dedicated to Decay: How Saprotrophic Fungi Unravel the Fabric of Life"

Common saprophytic fungi include "brown rots" such as Laetiporus, Phaeolus and Neolentinus, "white rots" such as Pleurotus, Ganoderma and Trametes, and litter decomposers such as Agaricus and Agrocybe. These fungi have one important characteristic in common, they gain nutrition by decomposition of dead plant cell wall material, the bulk of which is cellulose and lignin. Cellulose and lignin are the two most abundant organic compounds on earth, but few organisms other than fungi and bacteria have evolved the enzymes to digest them. Cellulose is a relatively simple carbohydrate. But lignin is a much more complex, polyphenolic compound, very resistant to decomposition. Indeed, lignin evolved in part as protection for cellulose from the ravages of fungal attack. The complex mechanisms and enzymes employed by saprotrophic fungi to degrade and digest lignin are finally beginning to be elucidated. They reveal some intriguing connections. Could the synthesis of polyphenolic compounds of plants, animals and fungi be related to their protective, toxic, and even their medicinal potentials? Could fungal bioluminescence be tied to the process of lignin decomposition? Did saprotrophism give rise to ectomycorrhizal associations through the loss of genes and enzymes, or was it the other way around?


Bob Cummings with a jack o'lantern, Omphalotus olivascens, a saprotrophic mushroom


More information about LAMS events, including a biography of the speaker, is available on the Calendar page.

No LAMS forays are scheduled at this time, due to dry weather.  LAMS members will receive an announcement of forays as soon as they are scheduled.

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Created in January 2002.  Last update November 25, 2017.  Contact the webmaster.
Copyright 2002-2017 by the Los Angeles Mycological Society unless otherwise noted.
All images used with permission of the copyright holder.
This page is part of the Los Angeles Mycological Society web page at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County