Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of rain. For me, this means more walking and less riding my bike in the woods. During my most recent walk, I noticed a lot of mushrooms popping up from the forest floor.
When many people and even most arborists see mushrooms on the ground they often think they are bad or something is wrong with the soil and that something needs to be done. They may even think that a spray or fungicide is needed to get rid of the mushroom.
In contrast, when I see mushrooms my mind starts to travel deep into the soil and I think of the miles of mycelium that are under my feet, and I think healthy soil.
Mycelium is basically the vegetative body of a mushroom that you never see and is below the ground. The small fruit body part we see above the ground (the Mushroom) is the sexual reproductive part of a mushroom. The mushroom releases spores. These spores are single cells, and they float around in the air and lay around on the ground or some other substrate to reproduce and produce hyphae. When two compatible hyphae meet they create mycelium. Mycelium spreads throughout the soil and creates symbiotic relationships with the roots of many trees and plants. Some have termed these mycelium networks in the soil as the information superhighway or the “Wood Wide Web.” These mycelium networks can link the roots of different plants so they can share nutrients and information. Paul Stamets called them “Earth’s Natural Internet”
When there is a beneficial relationship with mycelium and tree roots we call that mycorrhiza or mycorrhizal fungal associations. These benefits include water absorption, nutrient uptake, resistance to disease and pathogens, and increased plant health and stress tolerance. All the tree has to do is release some carbohydrates from its root system and the mycelium give the trees what they need.
Without good mycorrhiza in the soil a tree may not survive or thrive.
So, what else is so special about mycelium? Here are just a few examples to look up and enjoy!
Cleaning up toxic waste
There are some mushrooms that cause damage or weaken trees and should be observed or monitored closely by a Certified Arborist. Feel free to call.
P.S. This list below could be very very long, but I suggest starting here on your mushroom education journey.
Below you will find the Lactarius indigo mushroom that I harvested and ate.