So, what are mushrooms?
Why do mushrooms matter?
The study of fungi is known as Mycology, a fairly young field of scientific examination. Many mycologists believe that 86% of Earth’s fungal spices remain unknown. What we do know about fungi is fascinating!
Fungi help to decompose dead matter, such as fallen trees, returning their nutrients to the soil. Without fungi, Earth would be buried in dead wood from all the trees that have lived here. What else might fungi help us to decompose? Tests have proved oyster mushrooms capable of cleansing soil of an oil spill. Might we put fungi to work disposing of our toxic waste?
Mycelium in soil can connect to the root structures of various plants and physically transport nutrients between them, allowing forest plants to share resources with one another. How might restoration biologists use fungi to help improve the health of their forests?
Fungi present novel defenses against bacteria and viruses that try to harm them. In 1928 a Scottish scientist, Alexander Fleming, discovered a green mold capable of killing bacteria. This fungus, Penicillium notatum or penicillin, revolutionized modern medicine. What disease fighting secrets might the unknown fungi of old growth forests hold?
Mushrooms come in all shapes & sizes:
All of these mushroom photos were taken right here at the Nature Preserve.