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The Fascinating World of Mushrooms

With no rain for two weeks, we were a little concerned about finding mushrooms on the morning of our workshop,The Mushroom World, (October 1st). Mushrooms flourish with rain and soggy conditions allowing spores to spread, permitting the fruiting bodies to burst covering the forest floor and rotting tree limbs.

Bob Bowles, who has studied mushrooms for over 45 years, led our workshop, teaching how mushrooms and mycelium play a major role in contributing to our ecosystem in keeping it balanced and healthy.

Basket of Mushrooms collected

We learned the world of mushrooms is predominantly an underground organism. The mushroom we see above the surface is the fleshy, fruit body of a fungus, similar to the apple on an apple tree. Mushrooms communicate by emitting electrical impulses across single cell strands under the forest floor. This strand or filament forms a thin web called mycelium. The role of mycelium is to provide a network of highways that facilitates transportation and intake of nutrients.

Research has shown that fungi share information, through this network of fungal mycelia, about food and even threats, like viruses and insects. Studies have also shown this information is shared not only with other fungi but with the trees and plants as well. The trees and plants obtain needed nutrients and moisture supplied by the fungi and in return the trees and plants supply needed sugars and other organic compounds to the fungi creating a balanced, symbiotic relationship.

As mentioned, the mycelium grows underground but can also thrive on rotting tree trunks and limbs as shown in this photo below. This is mycelium for Honey mushrooms.

Mycelium on a rotting tree stump

Bob taught us a step-by-step process of identification, first learning the forms of various mushrooms and using the Key to Major Groups of fleshi fungi. We studied the macropscopic characteristics of the mushrooms we found which included the shape of the cap, attachment of the gills to the stalk, and the shape and position of the stalk. Taking a spore print is also an important step in the identification process. We learned the latin name of each mushroom observed since one mushroom can have 3-5 common names.

It takes years of study, having several guide books at your fingertips and regularly going out into the woods with an expert to identify and forage for these interesting, delightful and sometimes delicious fungi.

Here are photographs of some of the mushrooms we observed.

Photo Credit: Martha Lawrence

Honey Mushroom (Armukkarua mellea)

Orange Jelly (Dacrymyces chrysospermus)

Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)

Slimy Yellow Pholiota (Pholiota flammans)

Velvet Foot or Winter Mushroom

(Flammulina velutipes)

Ash Tree Bolete (Boletinellus (Gyroden) merulioides

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So much variety... And the colours are stunning! 😍

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