A Fun-Loving Guide to the Natural World for Kids and Adults

Brought To You By Nature

The other day I brought a shelf fungus home.  I found it on an old fallen tree that the neighbor was cutting up for firewood.  This particular species, Ganoderma applanatum, or the Artists’s Fungus, is as hard as wood, and gets its name because the white spore surface on the bottom can be used as a canvas by artists.  My thought was that we could affix it to the wall in our living room and use it as its name implied – as a shelf.  Rebecca told me she’d have to think about it for a short while, assuring me I’d have an answer before the next millennium.

The funny thing is that nature is full of these sorts of things – objects that mimic much of our modern technology.  Or perhaps it’s more apt to suggest that our modern technology has taken many of its cues from examples found in nature.

Sometimes these examples are fairly simple.  Last winter, when Rebecca and I were out for a walk and my jacket suffered a zipper malfunction, she walked over to a stalk of burdock, grabbed some burs, and used them to close my jacket against the wind.  It was a Swiss gentleman, George de Mestral, who used the hooked design of the burdock bur to invent Velcro.

When I lead people on wilderness survival classes, they are often surprised to find that many modern conveniences are readily available in the woods.  We sip tea from straws made of reed, sleep on heated floors by burying hot stones in the ground beneath our blankets, and even enjoy fresh running water – straight from a spring.

When bow and turkey hunters venture out into the woods, they’re using tactics our ancestors learned from watching animals – namely the benefits of camouflage, which is the basis behind a leopard’s spots, a rabbit’s soft coloration, and the uncanny mimicry of many insects.  Even highly-advanced technology benefits from observing nature’s ingenuity.  The fluorescent wings of the African Swallowtail butterfly are giving researchers insight into creating more efficient LED lighting, and by studying the super-efficient flight of flies, scientists are creating micro-robotic replicas that could be used for surveillance.  Some futurists even suggest that the human species, with its growing interconnection via modern communication, is evolving into a unified network like a hive of bees.

As for me, I decided the next millennium was quite a way off, so when Rebecca wasn’t looking, I put up the applanatum shelf and set a few knick-knacks on it.  And to my relief, when she saw it, she liked it.

16 Responses to “Brought To You By Nature”

  1. I think I have found some of those. They are very hard. Can you fix the photos so I can see one?

    I agree the technology that is linking us together is going to become something much larger than communication. Possibly a virtual world we can actually go into as energy. I know one of the limitations is storage. With new storage technology only a few years away it may be possible.

    What about birds or butterflies that fly hundreds of miles or more. GPS built in. Still blows my mind that humming birds travel so far every year.

  2. I can’t view the pictures either. But I’m anxious to see them. I think that’s so funny about the shelf…so creative! I think we may have that fungus in our front yard. It is a lot like wood and has white as well. Love this post!

  3. Hi Dave!

    Great example with the birds migrating! And thanks for notifying us about the photos — they should be fixed now!

    Very interesting ideas about where our technology might lead. Sometimes it feels as if the technology has a life of its own, and we’re just pawns enabling it to grow. Where oh where will we be led?

  4. Hi Shawna!

    Oh fun! You have one in your yard? They’re quite amazing. Thanks as always for visiting and for adding your voice!

  5. Welcome back guys! I’ve missed reading your posts. I’ve seen these shelf mushrooms around our farm and never thought to bring one inside and actually USE it as a shelf…how clever! it really does look wonderful, and oh so naturey.

  6. I so have to do one of those shelves!

  7. […] Wild About Nature Blog: Brought To You By Nature […]

  8. LOVE this! What did you use to put it up?

  9. Hi MObugs!

    Thanks so much! Good to be back =) They really are fun shelves, aren’t they? They always draw people to them, and we hope create a sense of amazement that will help, in its small way, to draw people out-of-doors =)

  10. Hi Ted!

    Picturing one of them tastefully displaying a dragonfly wing, the shiny gem of a beetle’s wing-cover, and perhaps the shed exoskeleton left behind when a dragonfly took flight.

  11. Hi Elizabeth!

    It was a wall we could access from behind, so two long screws went into the wall from behind to secure it.

  12. Thanks for the pictures. I want to hang a shelf like that. I think it will be perfect in my man cave!

  13. Hi Dave!

    That’s great — we imagine your ‘man cave’ is a little more interesting than most! Lots of treasures from nature, we’re guessing . . .

  14. Glad that Rebecca liked your applanatum shelf, I kind of want one for myself! I agree, there is so much that we can learn from observing nature.

  15. Hi Jerry,

    They’re pretty spectacular, aren’t they? Thanks for stopping in!

  16. Great article… lots of things go unnoticed as we focus on the obvious during a hike.

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