And what a World it is! With over 50,000 species world-wide there is no shortage of finding exquisite looking and sometimes delicious mushrooms. But let's not forget about those mushrooms that cause gastrointestinal discomfort, pain and on occasion death if ingested.
Photo Credits: Jayne Peacock and Michael Elmer
Our workshop last Saturday went well with a perfect day of sunshine and temperatures reaching 18C. The participants were eager to learn and get out into the field. Bob Bowles, who has studied mushrooms for over 45 years talked about how they play a huge role in contributing to our ecosystem in keeping it balanced and healthy.
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. Mushrooms communicate by emitting electrical impulses across single cell strands under the forest floor. This strand or filament forms a thin web called mycelium. 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.
We realized, after discovering and with Bob's expert help identifying 54 species at the nature centre that we were only scratching the surface of the mushroom world. Learning about mushrooms, being taught a step-by-step process of identification, learning the latin names, since one mushroom can have 3-5 different common names, is an art and a science. 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.
If you would like to play, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org identifying the mushrooms in the photographs above. The first to send in the correct answers will be our guest at one of Bob Bowles' future workshops!