Fun Facts about Fungi

White mushroom on forest floor

Learn About Mushrooms

There’s not “mush-room” (much room) for debate, fungi are great! September is Mushroom Month, making now the perfect opportunity to highlight these important organisms.

What exactly is a mushroom? It’s the reproductive structure produced by some fungi. It’s like the fruit of a plant, except that the seeds it produces are millions of microscopic spores that form in the gills, or pores, underneath the mushroom’s cap.

Here are some mushrooms you can find in the Credit River Watershed.

Giant puff ball

White mushroom shaped by a volleyball
Giant puff ball mushroom. Creative Commons by Dr Mary Gillam

Mature giant puff balls (Calvatia gigantea) can easily be mistaken for volleyballs! They can grow to about 30 centimetres wide. Puffballs are spherical and don’t have a cap or stalk like mushrooms you see in storybooks. Instead, the spores form in what’s called a gleba in the middle of the ball.

This mushroom gets its name from the clouds of spores they release when the mushroom bursts. The outer skin-like layer of the puffball will burst when it becomes dry and fragile – the tiniest bit of pressure is enough to shoot the spores out. Pressure can come from an animal knocking it as it goes by, a stick falling on the it or rain drops.

Fairy inkcap

Cluster of small inkcap mushrooms
Fairy inkcaps range in colour from pure white to brown.

Delicate fairy inkcaps are scientifically known as Coprinellus disseminatus. They are found in small clusters or in large patches by the thousands. Fairy inkcaps grow on and beside stumps and other forms of rotting wood.

The species was given its name in 1938 by Jakob Emanuel Lang.

Chicken of the woods

Mushroom growing on a tree trunk.
The Latin name for Chicken of the Woods is Laetiporus sulphureus

Chicken of the woods mushrooms grow up the trunks of standing deciduous trees, such as oak. This species gets its name from the texture of its flesh, which is said to resemble cooked chicken. It’s also known as sulphur shelf, chicken mushroom and chicken fungus.

Turkey tails

Cluster of brown and white mushrooms on tree stump.
The Latin name for turkey tails is Trametes versicolor.

You can find turkey tail mushrooms all over the world. They are a polyporous mushroom which means many pores. Its pores are on its underside, which is the opposite to the gills found on most mushrooms.

Shaggy manes

Two white olbong mushrooms growing on the forest floor.
Shaggy mane’s have an egg-shaped top and a thin stem.

Shaggy mane mushrooms (Coprinus comatus) are found in many habitats: densely wooded areas, gardens and parks. Their caps are five to 14 centimetres tall and two to five centimeters wide, becoming bell-shaped as they mature. Shaggy mane start growing white and firm. As it matures, the mushroom cap liquefies. The gills and cap turn into a black goo. The entire cap eventually dissolves leaving only the stalk.

Shaggy manes are also known as shaggy inkcaps or lawyer’s wig mushrooms because the upturned scales on their caps look like the layered curls on the wigs worn by lawyers in historical courtrooms.

Jack-o’-lanters

Cluster of orange mushrooms along tree trunk
Jack-o’-lantern mushrooms typically grows in clusters of at least twelve mushrooms. Photo by Antonio Abbatiello, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

These bright mushrooms are Omphalotus olearius, commonly known as jack-o’-lantern mushrooms. Incredibly you can see these mushrooms glowing in the dark! While its bright colouring is beautiful to look at, it’s poisonous and should not be consumed or touched.

Mushrooms are an important part of a healthy environment because they are indicators of a diverse ecosystem and have an important role in nutrient recycling. They have the unique ability to break down wood, allowing nutrients to return to the soil and be available to other plants.

Please remember to admire with your eyes and not your hands. Mushrooms are delicate organisms and easily lose their rooting if disturbed. Never eat mushrooms you find in nature and always wash your hands if you accidentally touch one.

Share your mushroom photos with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

By Kimberley Laird, Associate, Marketing and Communications

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