The mystery of the fungus that invaded an entire town

As you know, mushrooms play a very important role in the elaboration of everyday products such as bread or some alcoholic beverages.

The problem is that sometimes they get a little crazy and decide to see a little world beyond factories, wineries and distilleries where they carry out their function, driving the inhabitants of houses and shops crazy, who see how their walls and roofs are covered with an annoying black layer.

This is the case of Baudoinia compniacensis, also known as Cognac Black Mold or Whiskey FungusAnd if you want to know how it came to invade the walls of a whole town, I invite you to read this article.

What do we know about black cognac mold?

suntory-iss-space-whiskey

This mushroom is a ascomycete belonging to the class Capnodiales. Its germination is stimulated by the presence of ethanol, which is why it usually grows in environments where this substance abounds, such as distilleries and wineries, although it also does it in other types of factories, such as bakers.

It is a microorganism that tolerates very well temperature fluctuations, so it usually appears on surfaces where these changes are very marked between day and night, such as walls and roofs close to the factories mentioned above.

It is not always known how its dispersal occurs, although the absence of spores in the air suggests other vehicles, such as splashing rain or drag mediated by invertebrates, like mollusks.

How could this fungus invade a whole town?

The name of this mold is due to its ease of teir of black those surfaces on which it grows. Knowing this is not particularly curious, but imagine what it must be like for the inhabitants of a whole town to see how the walls of their houses in a thick layer, the color of the jet and unknown origin.

This is what happened years ago in a town of Canada, who resorted to the help of James Scott, a mycologist of the University of Toronto, who had just started his career as a fungus detective, looking for the provenance of pests like this that we mentioned today.

Scott immediately went to investigate the surroundings of the cellars where were the barrels from a well-known brand of whiskey of the area. At that time they told him that other mycologists had tried to solve the mystery in the last ten years and had concluded that it was a mix of common fungi in nature and that the distillery had nothing to do with it. However, he was not convinced and continued his inquiries from there.

The black cape grew up to a mile away from the cellars, but the closer it got, the thicker it was. Taking samples and looking under the microscope, he observed a mixture of known fungi, as the previous researchers had claimed, but something different also appeared, more thick and dark, unlike any type of microorganism that he had seen before. Then he learned that his colleagues had taken the samples badly.

So he proceeded to repeat the operation, but this time he just took that unknown thick part and made it grow in Petri dishes. When I looked at it again under the microscope a month laterThe result was disappointing, as he could see exactly the same as in the previous sample.

Whiskey mushroom

So, far from giving up, Scott had a hunch. What do mushrooms like to eat? As happens to humans, each one has their tastes and he liked the whiskey. So I ran to buy a bottle of Canadian Club, the whiskey that was distilled in the town, and added it to the plates on which the mushrooms grew.

This time the fungus grew at great speed, making clear the connection to the distillery. But how had it spread throughout the rest of the town? The answer to this question came after learning about the methods used to age such drinks. Vaporous ethanol! The distillery was releasing ethanol in the form of steam, that adheres to the walls and roofs of the town.

The distillery was releasing ethanol in the form of steam, which adheres to the walls and roofs of the town.

Although already in the XIX century cases of this fungus were reported, it was Scott who finally managed to understand its origin baptizing it in honor of the first pharmacist who investigated it, Antonin Baudoin.

And that's how this mushroom hunter solved a mystery that had been unsolved for over a hundred years. So that later they say that constancy is not important.