There are little puzzles in life that, well, puzzle me. Such as why all the clothes in my closet seem to shrink at least two sizes from one year to the next. And also, how come if “haste makes waste” then “he who hesitates is lost.” A conundrum. What should you do? Then there is the puzzle of why mushrooms seem to pop up overnight all over the lawn. Where did they come from? Is it Mother Nature just playing a trick? This is a mystery I will try to unravel.
To begin with, the word mushroom is derived from the French word for fungi and mold. That certainly sounds appetizing. As there are over 10,000 known types of mushrooms and also various species, we will concentrate on the “lawn” and “mulch” mushroom.
Lawn mushrooms are fairly common. They help break down and decompose organic material, tend to be harmless and are sometimes beneficial as they feed on old mulch, animal waste and stump and organic matter. They are unique organisms that have the ability to recycle this decomposing matter. If your yard has a lot of organic material in the soil, mushrooms help break down the organic material and make your soil more productive and create a better lawn. One of the exceptions are the “fairy ring” mushrooms. They are not harmless to your lawn. It is a lawn disease caused by certain types of fungus which starves the grass roots of both water and nutrients by inhibiting growth and water intake.
The mushrooms you see on the lawn are not the whole fungus. What you see is the fruiting body which has the prime function of spreading spores from their gills to create new colonies. It is the mycelium, an underground complex network, that feeds the membranes of the mushroom and is the main body and root of the fungi. The main body can last for years underground and produce when conditions are favorable, such as a wet spring or autumn. A mushroom appears to grow like a plant, but genetically it isn’t a plant. It is a fungus.
Fortunately most of the mushrooms we see on lawns, in planters and around ornamental shrubs are non-poisonous. A warning though – it is hard to tell which mushrooms are safe. There is no scientific test or no universal rule for telling a poisonous mushroom from an edible one because there is so much diversity. We learn when a certain mushroom is poisonous because someone has become ill from eating it. Some can kill you. Clear, pick and destroy all mushrooms from your yard as soon as they appear to keep spores from spreading. Unfortunately they can come into a lawn from a neighboring area. They can cause great harm and even death to dogs. Check your yard for mushrooms each year, especially during a wet spring or autumn.
The art of edible mushroom picking is just that, an art. There is a saying, “There are old mushroom pickers and bold mushroom pickers, but there are no old, bold mushroom pickers.” Think about it. As for me, I will hunt for my favorite edible mushrooms in the local grocery store. They are easy to find in their little plastic containers. The only wild mushroom hunting I will do will be looking for lawn mushrooms to pick and destroy to keep our dog from eating them.
Red Bluff Garden Club meets the last Tuesday of the month as 12:30 p.m., at the Methodist Church 525 David Ave., Red Bluff, visitors are welcome.
The Red Bluff Garden Club is affiliated with the Cascade District Garden Club; California Garden Clubs, Inc; Pacific Region Garden Clubs and Natural Garden Clubs Inc.