Naturalist Notes: October, 2019

>> Naturalist Notes & Musings:

There are so many wonderful things about fall that it is hard to pick a favorite, but high up on the list of reasons to love autumn are mushrooms.

 Mushrooms come in an amazing variety of colors and shapes, make a great addition to dinners, and their importance in the forest is second only to the trees themselves.

A little background is important here, as they or often misunderstood and even vilified due to some species being highly toxic.

Mushrooms are the fruit of a fungus, just like an apple is the fruit of an apple tree. For a fungus to reproduce it needs to make spores, just like an apple tree needs to make seeds. The mushroom is not the organism, but just a reproductive structure that produces spores and ensures the future of the species.

The fungus is the organism, and they are quite inconspicuous, living in the soil or in live or dead trees as a network of fine white strands. It's the mushrooms that stand out and get noticed -  often littering the forest floor with their varying shapes and colors. Most forest fungi are decomposers and help the nutrient cycles of the forest by using dead leaves and trees as food. Some fungi are parasites and attack living trees, but there are many that live in harmonious association with certain trees and get their food from their host - and in turn, provide the host tree with help getting water and nutrients. The bulk of the mushrooms found in the forest are inedible, but there are a handful that are delicious. October is the time of year when many tasty forest treats can be found, and I look forward to another great year of mushroom hunting! If this topic interests you, come join us at the cabin on October 17th at 7:00pm for a fun and informative lecture and slide show about mushrooms.

See you on the trails!

Marc Gussen, Naturalist


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