What’s Up With Those Weird-Looking Mushrooms?

They appear spontaneously, or so it seems, to get out of the mulch, get up in a single spot on the lawn, or burst through small marshmallows like the pavers of the route. But there is a complex master plan at work, not just one in which most of the gardeners are private.

What are the mushrooms in our garden trying to tell us – and would you be surprised to know that this is mostly good news?

“We don’t have soil without fungus, at least the way we know it now,” said John Michelotti Katskil Fungi His great-grandfather was purchased on a family farm in Big Indian, NY, where Mr. Michelotti spent his childhood. “Their fibrous underground mycelia are essential for the nutrient rotation and balance of our soils, plants, microbial life – and the ecosystem as a whole.”


Today, Mr. Michoti walks the guided mushroom, teaches classes about mushroom growing and medicinal mushrooms at the New York Botanical Garden, and produces health extracts from fungi – sometimes in the midst of his role as a poison control volunteer To identify mushrooms in. . In each conversation, he strangely tries to promote openness in the world of fungi.

Instead of hurrying to fight, he suggests that we give a sense of developing intrigue, asking what the mushroom is and what it is doing. And perhaps we will eventually move on, actively farming as some garden assistants. (There is a bonus: some hard-working species are edible.)

Fungi play the role of various important ecosystems. Saprobic species act as powerful decomposers: Oyster mushrooms, for example, serve to recycle a dead tree.

Mycorrhizal fungi help plants build resilience and resistance to pathogens. In symbiotic partnerships, they translate water and mine nutrients and micronutrients, making them available to the roots of the plant. According to the North American Mycological Association, some 92 percent of plant families rely on such services.

In turn, up to a third of the energy the plants make through photosynthesis goes to feed simple sugars to the fungus, Mr. Michelotti said: “This plant-fungus symbiosis is how early plants accessed essential nutrients. Done that help the residents land. In the first place. “

Ready to see the garden season ahead as a progressive backyard mushroom walk – and maybe the picture and record (rather than the fight) of your facing fungus?

Will emerge anew soon. But perhaps even now, on a log or wood-chip mulch, you can come across the bizarre, spore-filled remains of the outflow of stump puffballs (Lycopordon pyriform), or you can put bracket fungus on a tree stump. Or perhaps you will eventually discover some of the following.

While he works at the Catskill Fungi booth in the Hudson Valley or Catskill area farmers markets, Mr Michelati finds himself acting as an informal ambassador for the fungus. (Although with his characteristic mico-humor, he prefers to present himself as a “fun guy”.

“People come to me to ask, ‘I’ve got these mushrooms on my lawn – how do I get rid of them?” They said. “And if you search online for ‘lawn mushrooms’, this is how to kill them.”

His message, always patiently given: “Can we perhaps get a little deeper into 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 moving with vast networks of mycelial mats and trillions of microbes, which help plants break down organic matter to provide nutrients.”

Their questioners may have seen thin-stemmed, pointed-peaked little cones appala, mushrooms. They come and go quickly, often unnoticed. Or maybe something more vigorous just exploded? By late fall in summer, giant puffballs (Calvetia gigantia) such as football-balls are the headliners.

“Watch the movie ‘Fantastic fungi’ If you really want to appreciate the puffball in your lawn, ”said Mr. Michelotti, who has a walk-on in the documentary and is a favorite recipe for puffball picata.

Again: enough with elimination efforts. First of all, you can’t erase them – most of the fungus’s life continues even when unseen beneath the ground, and sinister bodies are removed. And “if you pick them up and toss them somewhere, or meow them, you’re really helping them spread their spores,” Mr. Michelati said.

Um, who’s playing the ring around the pine tree outside? One of the most delightful mycological sites is a fairy ring: mushrooms growing in a circular pattern, often around a tree. Tree species can help identify fungi; Such mycorrhizal relationships are often specific. The ring may return in later years, and may even widen.

“When you see a fairy ring, the mushrooms that pop up on the outer edge of the underground web of mycelium,” Mr. Michelotti said, referring to the hidden network of filaments, or hype. “You can see that the lawn has a more succulent, dark green and vibrant.”

If you are really lucky, you will win a front row seat that looks like melting mushrooms, Inky hats or shaggy mane (Coprinus comatus). In lawns, or in turbulent areas such as a dirt roadway, liquefied gills and caps lead us to the best mushroom vocabulary word of all: eccentric.

Mushrooms as auto-digest, black spores that do not go into the air tint that lags behind – a very different kind of reproduction show than giant puffballs, whose spores emit billions of cloudy spores .

And the shaggy man is one of several species that can make a fairy ring. Just imagine.

Credit …Margaret Roach

Native regions are a favorite of many fascinating species, including attractive bird’s nest fungi (including Cyathus and Crucibulum). The bird’s nest is named for its small cranial fruiting body (nest or peridia) that looks like a small egg (peridiol).

Phallic, sometimes flamboyant mushrooms such as elegant smelly (mutinous elgans) and ravenal stinkhorns (Fallus ravenelli) occur in stark contrast, seen in Battery Park and other parks around New York City.

“They smell like a garbage truck,” Mr. Michelotti said. “But the flock flies to it, and the sticky spore slime gets on their feet.” Spores spread wherever pests later grow.

“These gross people really appeal to people – and hit the wow factor,” he said.

Next, with eyes cast upwards, we can spy a growing shelf or bracket fungus on trees. Or perhaps fungi that are more down-curved, such as an animal’s hoof, called a cone. These powerful recyclers process dead and dying wood, but most do not explain the tree’s demise.

Edible Mushroom Cultivation – completed by inoculating logs with shiitake spawn or growing oyster mushrooms in the coffee grounds on the kitchen counter – has increased in popularity.

Although we are already inadvertently growing mushrooms in our yards, Mr. Michotti asked us to try deliberately growing delicious workhorbs such as Wine Cap King Stropheria (Stropharia rugosunulata) in dusty paths or beds. The annual almond agaricus can be cultivated in prepared manure, with squash vines, or you can enter a heap of compost with bloovits (Clitocabe) or in a garden bed without a shrub.

Spawning sources Area and Forest Products And Mushroom Mountains Provide a wide selection with detailed how-to instructions on each species.

Mr. Michelotti’s message is consistent: “The best thing you can do with fungus is accept it, enjoy it and appreciate what it is doing.” Remember, your soil does.

He is a self-educated mycologist, as was his mentor, Gary Linkoff, who died in 2018. Mr. Linckoff became known as the author of the “National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms” taught in the New York Botanical Gardens for over 40 years. In a project that has been running since 2010 until his death, he recorded over 100 species there, each living otherwise unrated among that world-class store collection.

Mr. Michelty was interested in mushrooms through cooking, and then foraging. It was Mr. Linkoff who led the event for the first time, and Mr. Michelotti urged each of us to go on a guided walk or check out a local club meeting. (North American Mycological Association website is A club directory.)

If you need more encouragement, Mushroom Expert The website is a go-to by Michael Kuo, such as Tim Stats and Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada’s “Mushroom of the World’s Help Help Save the World”, Paul Stamits and “Toilets of Northeastern United States” and Eastern Canada “. Doug Biernd’s “In Search of Mycopotia: Citizen Science, Fungi Fanatics, and the Uncapped Potential of Mushrooms” was recently published. And if you like the memoir-style mythological inspiration, try Long Lit Woon “The Way Through the Jungle: On Mushrooms and Mourning.”

For Mr. Michotty’s guided passage, they are short “Is it edible?” More than 101 fungi. He covers mushroom morphology, ecological roles, fungi in history and the interrelation of nature through current medicine and science. And he always finds something to add a dose of “wow” factor.

A few years ago, he was about to go for a walk in the jungle, which he had never known. “Do you want to come early to find good places?” The organizer asked him. No, he replied, he did not need an advance route.

“I like to be surprised,” he said. “And there is always something.”


Margaret Roach is the creator of the website and podcast A path to the garden, And a book of the same name.

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