The appearance of this mushroom after a much-needed rain in the Los Angeles foothills demanded that I Find The Camera. In the interim between putting the photo on Facebook this morning with a request for an ID and getting a response to an e-mailed query from Los Angeles County Natural History Museum mycologist Florence Nishida this evening, speculation as to its genus involved unbridled merriment. Southern California resident treasure, memoirist Erika Schickel, ventured that it was a Micropenisula shlongaeria. My own suspicion had been a Phallus anthonyweinerii. After more ribald speculation and some genuine mycological story-telling on the social network, Nishida’s response by e-mail in early evening had a “eureka” quality.
You are a lucky girl,” she wrote, “nature has gifted you with a stinkhorn, aka phalloid fungus. It’s probably Lysurus borealis, though another species is very common in southern California, Lysurus mokusin. Just looking at your …
Those wondering why so much of the recent rain across Los Angeles was flushed out to the Pacific through a storm drain system instead of socked into the local aquifer will find part of a complicated answer in a fact sheet issued last week by the US Geological Survey. Run-off from the Transverse Ranges into the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys hits land that the USGS classes as 83% urban, which means largely paved and impermeable. (For how a combination of arrogance and greed led to over-building of the Los Angeles flood plain, there is no better source than historian Jared Orsi’s “Hazardous Metropolis.”) Another limit on our ability to store mountain run-off in these valleys is groundwater pollution brought by that urbanization. The map below shows solvent hot spots.
Hat tip to the Water Education Foundation’s Aquafornia for signalling the sheet’s publication.
After the storm, we have no coroners, no priests for big trees. There will no autopsies, no last rites for the shredded jacaranda and more than 50 damaged trees at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Arcadia, the fallen oaks of Fair Oaks Avenue or mangled magnolia trees of Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena. Ceremony, if it can be called that, will involve gas-fired buzz saws and insurance adjusters.
So how do we mark what happened? For that matter, what did happen? And what, ultimately, will we make of the night the trees fell?
Click here to keep reading in the Los Angeles Times about the massive tree losses across the Los Angeles foothills during record winds last Wednesday night.
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