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Fungi, Myxomycetes, and Trees Program

The urban environment is much more diverse than some might suspect. We share our space on planet earth and in urban areas with all kinds of animals, plants, and insects. Even in the heart of a concrete downtown area, life exists and persists. Believe it or not, new species are being discovered in these urban areas still today – some can be seen with the naked eye and some are only micrometers in diameter.

Smaller life forms, such as fungi, myxomycetes, and lichens, are often overlooked and understudied. Researchers at FWBG | BRIT were eager to use the beautiful landscape of more than 100 acres of the neighboring BRIT and FWBG campuses as an outdoor study site to start observing urban tree populations and see what small life forms they could be harboring. What better way to learn more about these organisms than to start looking in our own backyard?

Trees, especially larger and older ones, can support diverse life when they are both living and dead. Both the crevices and surfaces of trunk tree bark on live trees and the decaying process after trees die are ways trees invite different organisms to take advantage of the ecological changes over time. From the base of a tree into the canopy brings a range of species that call a single tree “home.”

Many of us can identify a familiar tree associated with our home, or another pocket of nature in an urban environment. Perhaps you have even climbed a tree sometime in your life! These trees are not only appealing to look at but are also beneficial and necessary for our survival. Urban trees provide us with many ecosystem services such as cooling down the concrete-filled city, filtering the air and water, and conserving energy. 

You can use this tool to calculate how much money your trees at home are helping you save: http://www.treebenefits.com/calculator/ 

Whether a tree is in the deep forest or in a city, the longer it is growing in one spot, the more diverse life forms will develop and start reaping the benefits. Dating back to 2016, the Fungi, Myxomycetes, and Trees Research Team (FMTRT) has discovered a variety of organisms related to living or dead trees across the FWBG | BRIT campus and into just a fraction of Fort Worth’s nearly 300 nature parks.

Listed below are the FWBG | BRIT Staff and Research Associates involved in the Fungi, Myxomycetes, and Trees Program:

  • Harold W. Keller: Resident Research Associate, Project Coordinator, field collection and location of urban trees with fungi and myxomycetes, manuscript preparation, author. 
  • Robert J. O’Kennon: FWBG | BRIT staff/Resident Research Associate, field collection, location of field collecting sites and urban trees, photography, author.
  • Ashley Bordelon: FWBG | BRIT staff, field collector and location of tree habitats with fungi, data collection and manager, BRIT herbarium support with specimen processing and photography, author and presenter.
  • Billy G. Stone: Laboratory Associate, specimen preparation for SEM, SEM operation, light microscopy photography, manuscript preparation, co-author.
  • Edward D. Forrester: Research Assistant, light microscopy photography using multi-focal imaging and computer stacking, morphological observations and measurements, manuscript preparation, co-author.
  • Tiana F. Rehman: FWBG | BRIT staff, Herbarium assistance with specimen preparation, processing, and loans. 
  • Karen K. Nakasone: formerly with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, collaborator and authority on Dendrothele species and related corticioid fungi.

Current Research

Citizen Science Leads to Discovery of New Wasp Species on Garden Grounds

Many Fort Worth and area residents have explored the Garden for years. They may think they know every corner, every path and every tree. In fact, our own Garden holds many surprises. For example, a new species of gall wasp was recently identified on Garden grounds. The story of the wasp’s discovery has much to tell us about the importance of citizen science, the diversity of life around us and the many mysteries waiting to be uncovered in our own backyards.

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