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Thanks to Ida, an ecologist with Whidbey Camano Land Trust, I learned this past Saturday about fungi during a free walk and talk. The educational walk filled up within 4 hours of being announced by e-mail, so a 2nd one was arranged. Passion for fungi exists!
I thought I knew quite a bit about ecology of my region, but I was wrong. So wrong. I thought I’d share a few basics I did not know in general terms, in case it is of interest to readers.
1) The evergreen forests we know and love in the Pacific NW would not exist if it were not for fungi.
2) Nearly all the trees in our forests have a symbiotic relationship with fungi bodies in the soil. This means the actual tree roots do not touch the soil directly, but the fungi bodies channel all the trees nutrients to it. (Mycorrhizal Superhighways and Ecology, Mycorrhizal Networks: Mechanisms, Ecology and Modeling)
3) Mushrooms we see are like “apples” of an apple tree, but the bodies are underground doing all the action, so if you pick a mushroom, you are not hurting much. (Though if you dig in forest soil, you are).
4) Fungi, like this flat spongy white one on a dead cedar trunk, and any you see attached to fallen and dying/dead trees, are eating the sugars away from inside the trunk (cellulose) until all that is left is the cell walls (lignin), which fall to the forest floor in clumps and are not degraded by anything biological but in time by weather. This is why our Northwest forest floors are so spongy and great for walking.
5) When you see several different types of mushrooms on a single trunk, they are competing for resources, and if you were to cut open the trunk, you would see dark lines demarcating their territory where chemical signals are being sent to the other fungi. Warning! Do not cross this line!
One recommended mushroom resource for those like me who are clueless about edibles but simply love ecology is:
The fungi pics in this post are from my hike Sunday to Fragrance Lake in Skagit Valley, and a few photos from that glorious sunny Fall day are below for your viewing pleasure. The hike was grueling as my asthma did not appreciate the incline, but every time I stopped to catch breath (gasp), I paused in gratitude for my surroundings.