To think any one of these lifeforms exists in our galaxy, let alone on our planet, simply boggles the mind.
Photographer Steve Axford lives and works in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales in Australia where he spends his time documenting the living world around him, often traveling to remote locations to seek out rare animals, plants, and even people.
But it’s his work tracking down some of the world’s strangest and brilliantly diverse mushrooms and other fungi that has resulted in an audience of online followers who stalk his work on Flickr and SmugMug to see what he’s captured next.
Axford shares via email that most of the mushrooms seen here were photographed around his home and are sub-tropical fungi, but many were also taken in Victoria and Tasmania and are classified as temperate fungi.
The temperate fungi are well-known and documented, but the tropical species are much less known and some may have never been photographed before.
Mushrooms like the Hairy Mycena and the blue leratiomyces have most likely never been found on the Australian mainland before, and have certainly never been photographed in an artistic way as you’re seeing here.
It was painfully difficult not to include more of Axford’s photography here, so I urge you to explore further.
All photos courtesy the photographer. (via Awkward Situationist)
The Mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, is a plant called by the Arabs luffâh, or beid el-jinn (“djinn’s eggs”).
Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae).
Mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine, and hyoscyamine.
The roots sometimes bifurcate, causing them to resemble human figures. Their roots have long been used in magic rituals, and today are valued by members of neopagan religions such as Wicca and Germanic revivalism religions such as Odinism.
The roots of Mandrake were supposed to bear a resemblance to the human form, on account of their habit of forking into two shoots which form a rough figure of a human.
In the old Herbals we find them frequently figured as a male with a long beard, and a female with a very bushy head of hair. Many weird superstitions collected round the Mandrake root.
It was common belief in some countries that mandrake would only grow where the semen of a hanged murderer had dripped on to the ground.
And it was believed to cause death to whoever dug it up, as the plant would let out a shriek upon being dug up, which none might hear and live.
Therefore if you would dig up a Mandrake you should either do it from a distance using string, or tie the string to your dog and let him pull it up. Of course, then the dog would die from the terrible scream from the plant.
In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the author makes use of the legend of the mandrake’s scream, and anyone tending mandrakes wears earmuffs to dull the sound.
As an amulet, it was once placed on mantel to bring luck and happiness. Bryony roots were often cut into fancy shapes and passed off as Mandrake.
Small images made from Bryony roots, cut to look like the figure of a man, with millet seed inserted into the face for eyes, were sold to the foolish and uneducated.
They were known as puppettes and were credited with magical powers.
Italian ladies were known to pay as much as thirty golden ducats for these artificial Mandrake amulets.
The glass-domed conservatory at Huntington Gardens is home to many exotic plants, but tucked away in one of the wings is a special boggy environment dedicated to the most delightful plants of them all: the meat eaters.
On display within the massive 16,000 square-foot Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory are numerous species of unusual carnivorous plants, including American pitcher plants, sundews, Venus flytraps, and butterworts.
One example is the Sarracenia trumpet pitcher, native to the eastern United States, it flowers in the spring with a pretty little blossom and a distinctive smell, not unlike cat urine.
The pitchers are actually the leaves of the plant, and form slippery funnels that attract and trap curious insects.
Larger pitcher plants can trap and digest a full grown rat.
In comparison, the Drosera, or sundew, relies on hundreds of tiny sticky drops along their leaves to trap and digest insects.
There are more than 194 known species of sundews, making it the largest genera of carnivorous plant.
The humble looking Pinguicula, or Butterwort, with its pretty and unassuming purple blooms, uses a similar technique, trapping small insects on its sticky leaves.
Perhaps the most widely imbibed conifer on the planet, this ancient plant dates to the Triassic period. Juniper berries are actually tiny cones with fleshy scales that take two to three years to ripen.
A single shrub can hold berries in all stages of ripeness, so they are harvested by spreading a tarp underneath and beating the plant with a stick to make the ripe cones fall off.
By law, a spirit must contain some juniper to be called gin.
Grains of Paradise (Aframomum melegueta)
A common gin ingredient, this West African ginger relative produces tiny, spicy seeds.
It has flavored spirits and beers for centuries, but it’s also a staple food of western lowland gorillas.
Zookeepers discovered that without this vital food source, captive gorillas developed heart disease.
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
This silvery Mediterranean herb is best known as a flavoring in absinthe, but it is also used to add a note of bitterness to most vermouths.
In fact, the word “vermouth” is derived from early forms of “wormwood”—and that name came from the belief that the plant could kill intestinal worms.
Olive (Olea europaea)
A relative of jasmine, lilac, and garden sage, olives have been cultivated in the Mediterranean for seven thousand years, and individual trees live to be hundreds of years old.