Nature

A foray into fall fungi


Put up by Brett Peto

Till just lately, I haven’t given mushroom (a lot room) in my head to the Fungi kingdom. It’s been an admitted blindspot in my nature information for too lengthy. I’m taking some steps to right this, although. Studying books similar to Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. Searching for fungi within the Lake County Forest Preserves in northern Illinois and different pure areas. Taking pictures of those I discover and doing my greatest to determine them.

There’s nonetheless a lot I don’t know—apologies for any errors upfront—however I can declare to know a bit extra now than I did in the beginning of 2021. With fall being probably the perfect time to identify some fungi, I believed I’d write about some widespread species you would possibly uncover within the preserves.

Some slugs feasting on fungi. Photo © Helena Keller.
Some slugs feasting on fungi. Picture © Helena Keller.

Some fungi info would possibly assist set the desk. Examples of fungi embrace yeasts, molds and mushrooms. They’re eukaryotes, which means they’ve well-organized cells full with a nucleus and organelles. In contrast to crops, their cell partitions include a substance referred to as chitin, additionally discovered within the exoskeletons of bugs and crustaceans.

The constructing block of a fungus is the hypha (plural hyphae), a small tube that accommodates a number of cells. When hyphae join and collect in nice numbers, they kind a community referred to as a mycelium (plural mycelia). What we frequently discover above-ground this time of yr are buildings referred to as fruiting our bodies. As a technique of copy, fruiting our bodies launch trillions of spores, which may every germinate into a brand new fungus and will be regarded as considerably analogous to plant seeds.

Regardless of this, fungi are extra intently associated to animals than crops, although scientists lumped them in with the plant kingdom as just lately because the Nineteen Sixties. This in-between state—not fairly animal, not fairly plant, “supple, with a fleshy resistance”—leads many individuals to really feel vaguely unsettled by fungi. It’s like solely partly recognizing your self in a mirror.

Do fungi photosynthesize as crops do? No, they usually don’t actively observe down prey and digest it internally as animals do, both. Fairly, a fungus’ hyphae secrete chemical substances referred to as exoenzymes that break down natural matter surrounding them. The fungus then absorbs the vitamins which are launched. Fungi are the one organisms on Earth which may successfully course of lignin—an especially powerful part of plant cell partitions.

These traits make fungi sturdy decomposers, releasing vitamins from lifeless organisms to free them up for themselves and different lifeforms. When a tree falls in a forest, it does make a sound, however it wouldn’t decay very quick with out fungi round to dismantle it. Certainly, it’s arduous to think about crops and animals current of their present types right this moment with out fungi, since vitamins could be a lot more durable to “unlock.”

The Fungi kingdom is so numerous that estimates of the variety of species are numerous themselves, starting from 500,000 to one trillion. A 2021 research printed within the scientific journal Microbiology Spectrum pegs the variety of Fungi species on this planet someplace between 2.2 and three.8 million. Nonetheless many fungi associates there are, scientists have found and described solely about 120,000 species, maybe simply 3 to eight % of the whole.

It’s moments like these when nature evokes each awe and humility. Flip by way of any discipline information to mushrooms and also you’ll see astonishing styles of shapes, colours, sizes and textures. (I’m a fan of puffballs, polypores and coral-like mushrooms myself.) Then take into account that we actually don’t know the half of what’s on the market. It makes a stroll by way of the woods this time of yr really feel like a particular expedition into partly charted wilderness.

So, listed below are 10 fungi species it’s possible you’ll encounter regionally. Many of those pictures are provided by my colleagues, Government Assistant Helena Keller and Restoration Ecologist Ken Klick, each fungi aficionados themselves. There’s fungus amongst us, certainly!

One word of warning: fall is a superb time to identify fungi rising. Nevertheless it’s by no means time to take away them from the preserves. Poaching and foraging are unlawful. These found doing so could also be topic to fines in response to the poached merchandise(s). Let’s all do our half to maintain these species within the preserves the place they belong.

The turkey-tail (Trametes versicolor) is a small polypore usually found growing on dead deciduous wood from May through December. Photo © Ken Klick.
The turkey-tail (Trametes versicolor) is a small polypore often discovered rising on lifeless deciduous wooden from Might by way of December. Picture © Ken Klick.
The white coral (Ramariopsis kunzei) is a visually interesting species best identified by its vertical branched structure, white color and fragile flesh. Photo © Ken Klick.
The white coral (Ramariopsis kunzei) is a visually fascinating species greatest recognized by its vertical branched construction, white coloration and fragile flesh. Picture © Ken Klick.
The giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea) is a perennial fall favorite in the preserves. It's a huge, smooth, white sphere typically measuring 8-20" in diameter. The puffball is found growing singly or in fairy rings in open woods and pastures. When white within, it's an edible species—though remember that collection of any natural material in the preserves is prohibited. Pictured: Joanna Klick. Photo © Ken Klick.
The large puffball (Calvatia gigantea) is a perennial fall favourite. It’s an enormous, clean, white sphere usually measuring 8-20″ in diameter. The puffball is discovered rising singly or in “fairy rings” in open woods and pastures. Picture © Ken Klick.
The chicken-of-the-woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) is a bracket fungus that grows on the trunks and branches of many tree species, including oaks, beeches, plums and willows. The fungus can sometimes act as a parasite. By the time mushrooms appear, it's likely the host tree has been invaded by thousands of mycelia. Photo © Lake County Forest Preserves.
The chicken-of-the-woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) is a bracket fungus that grows on the trunks and branches of many tree species, together with oaks, beeches, plums and willows. The fungus can act as a parasite. By the point mushrooms seem, it’s seemingly the host tree has been invaded by 1000’s of mycelia. Picture © Lake County Forest Preserves.
The hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa) is sometimes mistaken for fallen leaves. It's visible from September-November on the ground at the base of oak and other deciduous trees. You can typically find hen of the woods in the same place year after year, growing in clusters 10-20" wide. Photo © Helena Keller.
The hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa) is usually mistaken for fallen leaves. It’s seen from September-November on the bottom on the base of oak and different deciduous timber. You’ll be able to usually discover hen of the woods in the identical place yr after yr, rising in clusters 10-20″ vast. Picture © Helena Keller.
The jack-o'-lantern (Omphalotus illudens) is bioluminescent and glows green at night. It's also toxic, causing cramps, vomiting and diarrhea upon ingestion. The mushroom is usually found clustered at the base of tree trunks and stumps, or on the buried roots of deciduous trees. Photo © Lake County Forest Preserves.
The jack-o’-lantern (Omphalotus illudens) is bioluminescent and glows inexperienced at evening. It’s additionally poisonous, inflicting cramps, vomiting and diarrhea upon ingestion. The mushroom is often discovered clustered on the base of tree trunks and stumps, or on the buried roots of deciduous timber. Picture © Lake County Forest Preserves.
The wood-ear (Auricularia auricula), also called the tree-ear, is indeed ear-shaped—true to its name. Also true to its name, the species grows on coniferous and deciduous wood from May-June and September-December. The flesh is thin and rubbery. Stock photo.
The wood-ear (Auricularia auricula), additionally referred to as the tree-ear, is certainly ear-shaped. The species grows on coniferous and deciduous wooden from Might-June and September-December. The flesh is skinny and rubbery. Inventory photograph.
The common puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum) is widely distributed in North America and can be seen from July-October. The white, round mushroom features detachable, conical spines and grows singly or in clusters in open woods and along roads. Photo © Helena Keller.
The widespread puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum) is broadly distributed in North America and will be seen from July-October. The white, spherical mushroom options removable, conical spines and grows singly or in clusters in open woods and alongside roads. Picture © Helena Keller.
The little nest polypore (Poronidulus conchifer) is frequently mistaken for a cup fungus or a bird's nest fungus early on in its life cycle. Oddly, the mushroom eventually develops a cap as an extension of its cup. This species grows on dead elm branches and other deciduous wood, visible from June-November. Photo © Helena Keller.
The little nest polypore (Poronidulus conchifer) is continuously mistaken for a cup fungus or a chook’s nest fungus early on in its life cycle. Oddly, the mushroom ultimately develops a cap as an extension of its cup. This species grows on lifeless elm branches and different deciduous wooden, seen from June-November. Picture © Helena Keller.
The oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) gives off a somewhat pleasant, hard-to-describe odor. It grows in shelf-like clusters on many deciduous trees. The color of the cap varies from white to gray to brown depending upon the season. Stock photo.
The oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) offers off a considerably nice, hard-to-describe odor. It grows in shelf-like clusters on many varieties of deciduous timber. The colour of the cap varies from white to grey to brown relying upon the season. Inventory photograph.

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