Wonderous World of Mushrooms

Photo by Laura Wells

With rainy days and plenty of humid, warm temperatures, it’s been a banner year for mushrooms – so here are some basics for the curious preserve traveler.

Mushrooms aren’t plants, but rather the fruiting bodies of certain fungi that grow underground in a web of cells called a mycelium. The ideal conditions—after or during a rain—trigger a growth spurt that make the mushrooms seem to magically appear!

There’s a variety of mushrooms that can be found in this region, many of which have unique habitat requirements just like plants and animals. Noting the location of where a mushroom is growing can help you narrow down what type of mushroom you are looking at. For instance, check fields for giant puffballs, well-established forests for polypores (often called shelf mushrooms), and clear understories for morels. If you are interested in exploring and photographing mushrooms on the preserves, please be a courteous visitor and avoid creating social trails to mushroom locations.

For those interested in exploring the edible possibilities, be sure to venture with a friend with mycological experience. Always bring a field guide and, if possible, a person with mushroom identification skills too! Because of the great diversity in mushroom varieties and their many nuances, it is crucial to be a thorough inspector in your search for wild edibles – if in doubt, throw it out! 

Harvesting of plants or animals on preserves is prohibited, but mushrooms fall outside of that category. If you are skilled in identifying mushrooms and want to forage, please only take a few. These fruiting bodies are important to ensure the species thrives and survives and produces mushrooms for the following year.

It is exciting to see such a cultural shift in foraging and fungi over the last number of years – recognizing the connections (and delicious possibilities) out in nature. Check out Dave Muska and Ondatra Adventures, who have been providing excellent naturalist events with MHLC, as well as Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora for some thorough but accessible reading material!

Kent Harlow
Stewardship Coordinator

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