>> Naturalist Notes & Musings:
Every season has its own special basket of gifts from nature, but in my mind fall takes the cake. With the coming of cool nights and ample rain, the fungi of the forest start to fruit and make their reproductive structures: Mushrooms! October is typically the highlight of the mushroom hunter’s year, as conditions can be perfect for this vital stage in the life cycle of fungi. Apple trees make apples loaded with seeds so that they can insure the future of their species, and the rest of the plant world works pretty much the same way. Fungi are similar - just with different structures and a few special twists. When it is time for fungi to reproduce there are a couple different strategies, but the one that concerns me the most is one that produces mushrooms. Forest fungi can live in many different ways - some are parasites of trees, some are decomposers, and some have a relationship with plants that benefits both parties; but no matter how they make their living, they all need to reproduce. When it is time for fungi to complete their life cycle the "fruit" is the mushroom, and the "seeds" are spores. The variety of shapes, sizes and colors that mushrooms can come in is astounding. Some are conspicuous and common, but many are tiny and difficult to identify. Mushroom hunting is a great way to spend a couple of hours wandering through the woods - and if you put in your time, and learn to identify some of our common delicious edible mushrooms, you will be in for one of natures tastiest gifts.
See you on the trails...Marc Gussen, Naturalist
October is a magical time of the year. Transition from summer to fall brings the fireworks display of foliage as the trees lose their leaves, the migration of birds and Monarch butterflies, and my favorite: the proliferation of mushrooms. A handful of species are prized as food, but other than those, most are ignored and are often maligned.
Mushrooms are actually just the "fruit" of a fungus. As an apple tree makes apples - fungi make mushrooms. Their importance in the forest is eclipsed only by trees themselves; forests simply could not survive without fungi. They exist in the forest soil, and on living and dead trees. They act as decomposers, parasites, and sometimes as mutualistic “symbionts” (which help living plants to get water and nutrients from the soil). When the fungi are ready to reproduce, they make their reproductive structures: mushrooms. The mushrooms make spores, which are the fungi's version of seeds. Mushrooms come in an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and October is probably the best time to experience and enjoy this enchanting slice of forest life.