Zamia Young Ovule

Corn infected with the fungus Ustilago maydis forms large, swollen, kernel-like globules with soft black flesh covered by a silvery gray skin. Called huitlacoche (pronounced wee-tlah-KOH-cheh), the native Nahuatl word, this dish is characterized by a inky, mushroom flavor and has apparently been eaten in central Mexico for thousands of years. In the United States, after decades of trying to eradicate corn smut, some farmers are attempting to grow corn with large corn smut infestations because the fungus is becoming a prized gourmet food item, with much higher prices than healthy corn. The various smuts are characterized by masses of sooty spores that grow on or inside the plant during a fungus's last stage of growth. Many begin to grow in the plant embryo, feeding on maturing plant tissue through a network of filaments, or hyphae. To reproduce, a blister forms and breaks open, and the black, powdery fungus spores are borne away by air currents.

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