Friday, January 27, 2017

Life on the Watershed: Wild Mushrooms

It’s been a good rain year, and so it follows that mushrooms are popping up on  the watershed. These varied and colorful organisms are not plants, but seasonal fruits of certain underground fungi. And those fungi are doing what they have always done—promoting forest health and diversity.  

Many mushroom fungi species have long-established, mutually beneficial interactions with partner trees—like our native Coastal live oaks—that depend on them for sustenance and protection from disease and pests.

The fungi themselves are robust, wide-ranging underground webs of long thread-like tubes that connect with the fine tips of partner tree rootlets.  While they’re conducting sugars and other compounds from tree to mushroom, they’re relaying vital minerals and water from the soil to the rootlets—invigorating the root system and boosting tree nutrition and health. They can even penetrate and extract water from rocks for a partner during a drought.  

The mushrooms above will also be meals for deer, squirrels, raccoons and other woodland dwellers. The fruiting will continue through winter. But the fungal network below will be at work throughout the year, helping to sustain partners with water and nutrients when needed. 

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