Ramariopsis kunzei looks more like a beautiful white coral living under the sea than a mushroom living on the floor of a tropical forest. This beautiful fungal fruit is edible but, more importantly, plays an essential role in a forest’s nitrogen cycle.
Fungi like this break down organic compounds into nitrogen. Unfortunately, in the Panama tropical forest where this picture was taken, these fungi and other microorganisms in the soil cannot break down enough organic material to provide the forest with all of the nitrogen it needs to recover from clear-cutting that occurred 12 years ago.
Sarah A. Batterman (postdoctoral researcher)