>> 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
>> 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.