Creatures (Organisms) in My Backyard – Issue #3 – Mushrooms
(I realize mushrooms are not a creature but having had some beautiful specimens growing in our yard and having taken these photos of them, I could not resist writing about them as well.)
There’s just something about the pleasant roundness of a mushroom that appeals to me. Every time I see one growing in our yard I can’t help but get a picture of it. Some might say this obsession stems from growing up in a Mario Brothers playing family. I wouldn’t know.
Well, what about mushrooms? You ask. What can you say of interest about the spongy, peculiar things? Let me see… We all know mushrooms are a fungus, we learned that in the first year of biology, but what makes them grow so randomly? Out of the blue a few will grow up right in the middle of your yard.
Once I discussed this very subject with my grandfather and he said he heard they grow wherever dead wood could be found. So does this mean there is dead wood underground in the middle of the yard?
So I did a little research and this is what I found:
For the longest mushrooms were not even studied by scientists. It wasn’t until 1700’s did they begin to study mushrooms and for the longest they were categorized as a member of the plant kingdom. But plants use chlorophyll and photosynthesize while mushrooms do well in sunless, wooded areas. So they considered the animal kingdom due to the fact that mushrooms absorb nutrients like an animal does, and yet they do not contain a nervous system, and other important organs. By the 1960’s scientists decided to create another kingdom, kingdom Fungi, consisting of mushrooms, puffballs, yeasts, molds, mildews, and truffles.
Mushrooms receive their nutrients from dead wood and animal matter. This might explain the randomness of their growth. But did you know that the majority of the organism is underground? Thin, web-like roots form a mat known as hyphae that release enzymes around potential food to break it down and make it readily available for the mushrooms to absorb. From these roots they send out new mushrooms forming a perimeter around the already “harvested” area, though sometimes they aren’t as predictable as that.
They also reproduce through spores. This is more noticeable in puffballs, those potato-like dust clumps that entice young children to destroy, resulting in a satisfying poof and a cloud of tiny spores, sadly poisonous. Yes, I was one of those children.
Food wise, they are not especially flavorful and yet they complement certain gourmet dishes with their mild flavor and interesting texture. I, for one, enjoy them sauted with onions in butter. Some of my siblings, on the other hand, do not agree.
Though I have heard that a greater percentage of mushrooms are not poisonous, experts recommend people not to try to decide which of this percentage you have. Its best to get your mushrooms from the store so as to guarantee their edibility.