|Fungi in The Discovery Garden 2011|
|Mushrooms are a kind of fungi that belong to the basidiomycetes. (Most plant pathogens are ascomycetes.) The fruiting bodies, often as mushrooms, that you see represent only a small portion of the organism. Most of the fungus is underground as small threads (mycelium) that grow through substrates such as soil and can spread great distances—remember the Humongous Fungus?|
Most mushrooms breakdown organic matter such as wood chips or are mycorrhizal, i.e. associated with the roots of plants in a mutually beneficially arrangement, and a few are plant parasites. Mycorrhizae are essential for healthy growth of most plants as they take up micronutrients, among other helpful contributions, that are transported into the roots of the plants in exchange for carbohydrates.
When conditions are right such as when it rains, the fungus reproduces by means of a fruiting body that may be in the form of a mushroom or a “nest” with a packet of spores or slime on a stick.
Fungi found in the mulch of the Discovery Garden:
Phallus rubicundus – a stinkhorn found in both the mature and “egg” stage
Phallus rubicundus – a stinkhorn found
in both the mature and “egg” stage
Gymnopus luxurians – reddish brown mushroom with a tough stipe (not pictured)
“Coprinus” sp. and Parasola plicatilis (with black spores), Mycena sp. (with white spores) – small litter decomposing mushrooms
Cyathus striatus and Crucibulum laeve - “bird’s nest” fungi with gray and whitish “eggs”, respectively
Outside the Discovery Garden mycorrhizal fungi associated with the oak tree:
Boletus sp. (one of the fleshy pore fungi)
Russula sp. (fragile with even, white gills)
Amanita sp. (with ring around the stipe and stipe also having bulbous base with universal veil remnants
In the lawns nearby:
Marasmium oreades – fairy ring mushroom
How to identify mushrooms:
One of the first steps in mushroom identification is to make a spore print to determine the color of the spores. You do this by simply setting the mushroom cap without the stipe on a piece of white paper. The spores that line the sides of the gills then fall onto the paper in an outline of the gills and show their color.
A number of good identification manuals exist for mushrooms as listed below, but none of them include all mushrooms. If interested in learning more about mushrooms including which ones are edible, you may attend the monthly meetings of the Mycological Association of Washington (MAW).
Miller, OK & HH Miller. 2006. North American Mushrooms. A Field Guide to Edible and Inedible Fungi. A Falcon Guide, Guilford, Connecticut.