Mycologist answers the internet's questions about mushrooms

Originally published at: Mycologist answers the internet's questions about mushrooms | Boing Boing


That was an impressively concentrated and highly informative fungi video - thank you! (owe my career in biochemistry to a high school chemistry teacher who was fascinated with all things mushroom)

(‘blue’ is not easy to make biochemically… so what the @#$ is up with this mushroom (Lactarius indigo)? fascinating mystery #531)


Great band name there.


That’s not what they told me.


Most organic pigments get their color from a long system of conjugated double bonds. As the number goes up, absorption shifts from ultraviolet to violet to blue and so on – which means you get yellow, then orange, then red. It’s not easy to make blue that way.

A different way you get color in things is by having a system with lots of matching energy levels, and then adding some asymmetry to them. You see that in a lot of inorganic pigments, for instance copper compounds where the d orbitals are split in energy by surrounding anions. Blue is pretty common there.

The pigment here is organic but it works more like the second. It contains an azulene ring system, which is something a lot naphthalene but with a distortion that gives it a bright blue color. As for what it’s doing in the mushroom, it’s one of a few related terpenoids found in different Lactarius, which are generally protective and for instance give some other species really peppery tastes. I imagine it’s probably just chance that this one happens to be so visible.


This movie about fungus I enjoyed quite a bit, I believe it is still on Netflix:

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