DID YOU KNOW: mushrooms are the fungal equivalent to flowers?
The actual organism, the fungi itself, is a much less noticeable network of mycelium. In the third photo, the white stuff in the mulch you may think of as the mushroom’s “roots” are actually the primary organism. Unlike plants, fungi do not need sunlight to grow, and they are primarily decomposers of dead matter. Some species decompose things that are still alive (rude!), but for the most part, fungi live their lives quietly out of sight. When they sense the conditions are good for spreading spores, they send up mushrooms (or other fruiting body, depending on the species), and off they go! So mushrooms may seem to pop up out of nowhere, but the fungi have been there all along!
Many trees have symbiotic relationships with their own special fungi species, so when you are outside “mushrooming,” it’s a good idea to remember what tree it was growing under to make identification easier later. These relationships are necessary and essential for both fungi and tree: the fungi gets to steal some sugar from the tree roots, in exchange for improved water absorption and additional nutrients. Many species of tree can’t survive without their fungi friends!
Photo of some mushroom TBD last month. Posted August 12, 2018