Found on the Greenway: Fungi
By Theresa Landgraff
Fungi are one of the more interesting members of the plant kingdom. They do not need chlorophyll to make food, like most plants. Instead, they live either as a parasite (deriving nutrition from a living host such as a tree), or a saprophyte (living off of decaying organic materials). Mushrooms also live in symbiotic relationships with other plants as mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae, or fungal mycelium, is the underground portion of a fungus, while what we commonly think of as a mushroom, is really the fruiting body of a much larger organism popping out of the ground to say hello and spread reproductive spores upon maturation. Mushroom mycelium can bond to the roots of other plants, and assist in nutrient uptake, from which the mycelium and the plant both benefit. This fascinating relationship has been receiving more scientific attention in recent years.
Many fungi species can be found along the Greenway, some obvious and some not so obvious. This specimen of Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) was found along the Blue Star trail in the fall, about six feet off the ground on a tree trunk. Lion’s Mane (also known as Bearded Tooth) can often be found high off the ground like this, and is a member of a unique class of fungi known as teethed fungi. Teethed fungi differ from other fungi in that their reproductive spores form on their spines, rather than in gills or tubes, which is the more commonly recollected shape of a mushroom.
Many times, mushrooms can be found after rain, such as those shown below on the School Loop East trail. The beautiful orange mushrooms were hugging the trunk of a tree after several days of heavy rain during the summer, perhaps extensions of mycelium attached to that tree’s roots.
These mushrooms exhibit the more common cap and stem shape that most of us are accustomed to seeing.
Dead wood and logs are wonderful places to find fungi, such as those shown to the right and below. Both of these species are obviously saprophytic, since they are growing on decaying matter. These shelf-like fungi were found on the Greenway’s Steele Creek trail in December.