Building Permanent Culture in Knoxville
The black tulip fungus is a harbinger of spring in the northeastern and midwestern United States and into Canada. It's much more common than you think and can be found about the same time as morels-- but you have to look really closely! Although Urnula can be rather abundant in the forest, it is usually very difficult to see because of its black color and leaf-like shape. Usually if you find one, there are others nearby. Often they are even found fruiting in clusters of several fruiting bodies. It's likely that this fungus causes a wood decay. Urnula seems to fruit from the sides of fallen logs, but really comes out at the interface of the log and the soil, an area where it's most moist. It can also be found growing from buried wood and wood that barely breaks the surface of the soil-- again this is a habitat that is wetter than the surrounding area. It often grown in the vicinity of trees such as oak, aspen, and cottonwood, eventually growing on their wood. I usually find Urnula in rather deep, shaded woods. Members of the Ascomycota generally produce a soft rot, which means that they digest the glucans in the wood. If you remember, the Basidiomycota decay the lignin and/or cellulose of the wood. It would seem to be more efficient and to decay the more abundant lignin and cellulose, but the Ascomycota seem to be doing just fine, thank you. See this page for more information on wood decay by fungi.