TAR SPOT FUNGUS can warn that some nearby industry or business is letting off sulphur dioxide fumes.

TAR SPOT FUNGUS can warn that some nearby industry or business is letting off sulphur dioxide fumes.

Fungus, potatoes and science projects

A potato will indeed conduct electricity...In fact, there are many vegetables and fruits rich in ions that will work...

Received an SOS from our daughter.

“Mom! What do you know about electricity? Shelby (granddaughter) has to build an electrical circuit for a science project.”

My question…besides wanting to know the project deadline date … why do I always get the hard assignments? (Ever tried to help your grandson with his math homework over the phone?)

Admittedly, it has been a few years since I fiddled with homemade electricity projects myself but I did remember something about using a potato. And another project from my school days using pop and baking soda.

So, while my granddaughter is doing her own research, I will fill you in on a few facts about potatoes … besides all their nutritional bonuses.

A potato will indeed conduct electricity. Stick an anode (zinc strip or galvanized nail) and a cathode (copper strip or penny) into your potato, connect the two with a wire and you will have a homemade battery. Hook up a multimeter and it should give a reading of just under one volt.

The juice in a potato is full of ions which makes it a great conductor of electricity.

In fact, there are many vegetables and fruits rich in ions that will work as electrical conductors. Tomato, banana, carrot, lemon, cucumber … these are just a few that will produce voltage readings of at least 0.6.

Granted, it will take a series of any one of these fruit or vegetable battery set-ups to generate enough juice to light up an LED light but it can be done.

It will be very interesting to see how our granddaughter works out the logistics in her project that will turn on the light bulb when she opens the “door” of her cereal box.

• • •

Since I was into research mode, thought I would check out Tar Spot fungus, Rhytisma acerinum. You know, those ugly black splotches you see on the big leaf maple leaves scattered on the forest floor in autumn.

The affected leaves positively litter Miracle Beach Park where we have been enjoying almost daily walks with our new puppy, Sadie.

(We have been checking out the salmon run in the Black Creek. Latest count noted on the board at the fish ladder is 9,575 coho and 5 chinook … as of Nov. 7. Many of them have been tagged.)

Would you believe there are about 24 different species in the Rhytisma genus? Good news is they typically only affect maple tree species. And these fungi are strictly a cosmetic nuisance. They will not harm the tree. That part I knew already.

What I did not know: Rhystima species are an environmental indicator. They will not flourish in an area where sulphur dioxide is present in the air. Neither would we for that matter.

But Tar Spot fungus has a lower tolerance to this toxic gas than what is deemed harmful to us.

Word of warning then … if you do not see Tar Spot fungus on the big leaf maple trees in your area, check around to see if some industry or business is letting off sulphur dioxide fumes. Having worked in the pulp and paper industry … trust me, your nose will tell you if the level of SO2 gas is high.

• • •

Something else which might interest you … Herb of the Year for 2014 is Artemisia. You may be more familiar with the common names of wormwood, sagebrush, mugwort or southernwood. If you  like to cook, you have probably used Artemisia dracunculus, or tarragon.

Did you know there are 5 calories in one teaspoon of tarragon leaves? You will also get 0.13 g of total fat, 1 mg of sodium, 54 mg of potassium and 0.41 g of protein in that same teaspoonful.

Boy, the things one learns!

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca and her column appears every second Thursday in the Record.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rev. Sulin Milne at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Comox is part of those helping distribute food to those in need within the town. Photo by Jim Peacock
Comox church serving the community with food through COVID-19

“We knew there were so many people who were facing economic challenges …”

Cole Moore with one of his sisters, Jasmin Moore. Photo supplied
Courtenay man looks to brain surgery for second chance

Cole Moore’s sister sets up GoFundMe to help father looking after brother

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Nineteen people arrested, charges expected in Courtenay house raid

Investigators are continuing to comb through evidence seized

Demonstrators gathered Friday, March 5 at the Courtenay Court House, demanding protection of old-growth forests. Scott Stanfield photo
Concerned citizens march in Courtenay in name of old-growth rainforests

The Comox Valley is one of the B.C. communities engaged in mobilization… Continue reading

LUSH Valley’s partnership with School District 71 this past year helped feed 200 students and families through the Good Food Box program. Screenshot, LUSH Valley/Comox Valley Schools video
LUSH Valley-Comox Valley School Good Food Boxes fed 200 families in 2020

Non-profit organization is looking for new ways to collaborate with school district

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

The CVRD building in Courtenay.
Comox Valley organizations in need receive funding

The Comox Valley Regional Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has approved $55,000 in… Continue reading

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A virtual public hearing for a rezoning application for a Comox property was held on March 3. Black Press file photo
No comments at public hearing for Anderton Road rezoning application

The virtual public hearing was held on March 3 for the Comox properties

Most Read