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mycology specimens in herbarium

Wed Nov 3 10:31:16 EST 1993

In <1993Nov1.103657.6302 at msus1.susu.edu>, David asks:

>Sorry to trouble you with this but we are having a bit of a
>spat about putting mycology herbarium sheets in cabinets in
>the herbarium with vascular plant herbarium specimens. Is
>there a problem with fungi in with the vascular plants or

Dr. Lois Tiffany, mycologist in the Iowa State Botany
Department, assures me that most fungus spores need "free
water" (i.e., not just high humidity) to germinate.  Only
the powdery mildew spores are known to germinate at high
humidity, and they need at least ca. 90%.  Therefore, there
should be no problem with storing fungal specimens and
vascular plant specimens in the same cabinet.  (Even in the
event of a sprinkler system break or similar "flood", the
ubiquitous air-borne spores would probably cause as many
problems as dried fungal specimens would).

While we were on the topic I also asked Dr. Tiffany about
the hazards of "breathing" spores from dried fungal
specimens.  Again, she says the air-borne spores would cause
more problems to people with spore allergies, and routine
use of specimens should not be a problem for most of us
handling the specimens.  Persons who are particularly
sensitive might have a problem if they were handling (i.e.,
opening packets) large numbers of specimens.  The protein
that causes the allergenic reaction probably breaks down
over time, making exposure to "old" dried spores less of a
problem than "fresh" ones.

Deb Lewis
Curator, Ada Hayden Herbarium, Iowa State University

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