Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘mushroom’

Photo: Charles Russo.

Mushrooms, lichen, and fungus are increasingly fascinating to me. I’ve posted photos here and on Instagram, where I especially love the mushroom pictures of @chasonw.

When John’s employees visited from Ukraine, they used to enjoy looking for wild mushrooms to eat, but I don’t know any Americans who are sure enough of themselves to take a chance.

Today’s article by Margaret Roach at the New York Times explains why you really need mushrooms in your yard — and also which ones are safe to eat. (A tip of the hat to Hannah for the story!)

“They appear spontaneously, or so it seems, popping up out of the mulch, rising in a single spot on the lawn or bursting from between the pathway pavers like little marshmallows. But there is an intricate master plan at work, just not one to which most gardeners are privy. What are the mushrooms in our gardens trying to tell us — and would you be surprised to learn it’s mostly good news?

“ ‘Without the fungi we wouldn’t have soil, at least not the way we know it now,’ said John Michelotti, of Catskill Fungi in Big Indian, N.Y., a family farm on land his great-great-grandfather bought, where Mr. Michelotti spent his childhood summers. ‘Their filamentous underground mycelia are essential for the nutrient cycling and balance of our soils, plants, microbial life — and ecosystems as a whole.’

“Today, Mr. Michelotti leads guided mushroom walks, teaches classes about mushroom growing and medicinal mushrooms at the New York Botanical Garden and elsewhere, and produces health extracts from fungi — in between occasional calls to identify mushrooms in his role as a poison-control volunteer. …

Photo: Missouri Department pf Conservation
Giant puffball.

“Fungi serve various critical ecosystem roles. The saprobic species act as powerful decomposers: Oyster mushrooms, for instance, work to recycle a dead tree.

“Mycorrhizal fungi help plants build resilience and resistance to pathogens. In a symbiotic partnership, they translocate water and mine nutrients and micronutrients, making those resources available to plant roots. Some 92 percent of plant families rely on such services, according to the North American Mycological Association.

“In return, up to a third of the energy that plants make through photosynthesis goes to feeding simple sugars to the fungi, Mr. Michelotti said: ‘This plant-fungi symbiosis is how the earliest plants accessed essential nutrients that helped them inhabit land in the first place. …

” ‘People come up to me to ask, “I’ve got these mushrooms in my lawn — how do I get rid of them?” ‘ he said. …

“His message, always delivered patiently: ‘Can we perhaps look a little deeper about what the fungi are doing here?’

“Mushrooms — the fruiting or reproductive bodies of fungi — are not a disease, but a sign of health, he explains. They indicate that, under the grass, ‘your soil is running with vast networks of mycelial mats and trillions of microscopic organisms working together, helping break down organic matter to make nutrients available to plants.’

“His questioners might have seen some thin-stemmed, pointy-topped little Conocybe apala, mushrooms that come and go quickly, often unnoticed. Or maybe something more emphatic just erupted? From late summer into fall, soccer-ball-like giant puffballs (Calvatia gigantea) are the headliners.

“ ‘Watch the film “Fantastic Fungi” if you want to really appreciate the puffballs in your lawn,’ said Mr. Michelotti, who has a walk-on in the documentary — and a favorite recipe for puffball piccata.

“Again: Enough with the eradication efforts. First, you can’t eradicate them — most of the fungi’s life is unseen, below ground, and continues even if the fruiting bodies are removed. And ‘if you pick them and toss them somewhere, or mow them, you’re actually helping spread their spores,’ Mr. Michelotti said.” More here.

Read how Michelotti makes his delicious piccata from giant puffballs in the fall.

Photo: Suzanne’s Mom

100616-mushrooms-in-fall

Read Full Post »

There was more to Beatrix Potter than Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail. Her meticulous drawings of flora and fauna made serious contributions to the science of the day.

Maria Popova at Brain Pickings shares Potter’s mushroom drawings and more.

“At a time when women had no right to vote and virtually no access to higher education, very rarely owned property and were themselves considered the property of their husbands, Potter became a commercially successful writer and artist, using the royalties from her books to purchase her famed Hill Top Farm, where she lived simply and with great love for the land for the remaining four decades of her life. …

“Linda Lear’s altogether magnificent Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature (public library) — [is] by far the best book on Potter and one of the finest biographies ever written, Lear’s prose itself a supreme work of art.

“A formal scientific education was virtually inaccessible to women, except for the rare Ada Lovelace or Maria Mitchell, and membership in scientific societies was strictly reserved for men. But Potter’s scientific work was exceptional in that she deliberately tried to penetrate the very institutions that dismissed women’s scientific labor solely on the basis of gender. …

“By her early twenties, Potter had developed a keen interest in mycology and began producing incredibly beautiful drawings of fungi, collecting mushroom specimens herself and mounting them for careful observation under the microscope. … Lear writes:

Beatrix’s interest in drawing and painting mushrooms, or fungi, began as a passion for painting beautiful specimens wherever she found them. She never saw art and science as mutually exclusive activities, but recorded what she saw in nature primarily to evoke an aesthetic response. She was drawn to fungi first by their ephemeral fairy qualities and then by the variety of their shape and colour and the challenge they posed to watercolour techniques. Unlike insects or shells or even fossils, fungi also guaranteed an autumn foray into fields and forests, where she could go in her pony cart without being encumbered by family or heavy equipment.

More here.

Art: Beatrix Potter
Flammulina velutipes (Armitt Museum and Library)

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: