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Fungi + Southern Magnolias

By: Skylar Philips

I currently live in northern Georgia. Fortunately, my backyard is an ecosystem in its own right. Right outside, I found Hymenochaetaceae growing on a tree. It’s a parasitic family of fungi that causes diseases like heart rot and white root. I chose not to touch it, but it looks flakey, thin, and what I would expect fungi to appear as. As for it being medicinal or edible, Hymenochaetaceae is a family with over 27 genera and 487 species. There is no telling if the one growing outside of my home is safe for consumption. That is not to say that they cannot be used for good. For example: Phellinus are one of these genera and it is edible and medicinal, typically used as alternative medicine to stimulate the immune system. The difference in language is startling when it comes to plants and humans.

The second plant found in my backyard: Southern Magnolia. Described as a showpiece of the South, the tree gets its name from its place of residence and the French botanist, Pierre Magnol, who transplanted the tree to Europe out of admiration. The flowers that stem from its leaves also carry the namesake--magnolia flowers. (I found one in my tree! Apparently the white flowers represent dignity and nobility.) I grew up visiting this home to see my mother’s family, and I never thought much of or looked at this tree until now. I believe that the one in my backyard is on the larger side, considering its age and stature. It’s fairly textured with waxy-looking leaves. Southern Magnolias are supported in “acidic, well-drained and clay soils”, which totally makes sense considering Georgia’s red clay and moderate rain. Its branches attract birds--fitting as I wake up to a symphony of birds every day--and its fruit are eaten by squirrels and rabbits--the latter of which I see every night.


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