Fungi are full of interesting tricks. Take these Red-Belted Polypores (Fomitopsis pinicola), for example. Their shelf-like appearance on trees places them in a group called “Shelf Fungi” or “Bracket Fungi.” The undersides of their colorful “conks” have small tubes containing their reproductive spores.

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Shelf fungi position themselves the way they do so that their tubes are pointed downward to allow gravity to help disseminate their spores. But, when the dead or dying host tree falls – here’s the neat trick – these fungi slowly reposition themselves on the now-horizontal tree to, once again, take advantage of gravity. This “positive geotropism” often results in a fungus “shelf” becoming a fungus “pretzel.”

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Thanks to neighbor Dr. David Porter for guidance on geotropism. (Brooklin, Maine)