Reisse (Rhetor III)
The opera mushroom is an artificially engineered fungus developed by a team of researchers at the University of Rhetor’s (UR) Department of Genetics. It has a fleshy, violet, trumpet-shaped, fuzz-covered stem that amplifies a natural sound created by the expansion and contraction of the hyphae as water passes through it. Because the mushroom is easily grown on spacecraft, it became popular as an on-board plant shortly after its commercial debut in 2925.DEVELOPMENT
In 2918, genetics graduate students Mauveine Senae and Phil Ektos started a project to create an edible version of the fast-growing purple chimney mushroom, a toxic fungus indigenous to Reisse (Rhetor III). Dr. Yuki Hexa, Senae’s advisor, joined the project after Senae and Ektos presented their early results: a mushroom with a deeper funnel shape and slightly less toxicity. As the team made further modifications to the mushroom’s genetic code, the toxicity failed to fall to levels safe for Human consumption, but the divot in its stem deepened. One night, Ektos heard a strange tone in the lab, and traced it to the latest generation of mushrooms.
The team agreed to reframe their project to bring out the new audio qualities of the mushroom. By the end of 2920, they had developed a stable breeding population of mushrooms that produced varying tones depending on their size. Senae created a personal garden of the mushrooms in her dorm room, arranged so they resembled performers on a tiny stage. Hexa suggested the name "opera mushroom" after seeing this display. In early 2921, Ektos and Senae submitted their work on the opera mushroom to their dissertation committees and were awarded doctorates.LIFECYCLE
After a four-week growing period, the constant motion of water through the mature mushroom causes ballistospores to slowly eject from the trumpet. After these spores fall onto a suitable substrate, they take root into a mycelium from which the mushrooms emerge. More and more mushrooms grow as the mycelium spreads underground, sometimes resulting in a widening ring-like pattern. Places where opera mushrooms grow can often be heard before they are seen.COMMERCIAL DEBUT
Samples of the opera mushroom were made available to plant nurseries on Reisse in 2925. Thanks to its novelty and fast growth cycles, the fungus was an instant hit. It became a popular houseplant, especially for long-haul spacefarers in need of something low-maintenance to decorate their holds. Skilled gardeners can grow mushrooms in arrangements that produce harmonizing tones.
In 2926, a wild, self-sustaining population of opera mushrooms was discovered 11 kilometers from the UR Genetics lab. The mushrooms continue to grow in the wild on Reisse today. It’s a Day of the Vara tradition for some social organizations on the UR campus to tell ghost stories in nearby woodland with known opera mushroom populations to try to trick first year students into believing the woods are haunted