If you have been walking through Edmonton’s river valley or natural area parks you have probably noticed mushrooms growing along the walking trails. Although mushrooms can be found growing at any time throughout the summer, they are most abundant in late summer and into the cooler days of fall. Hunting for mushrooms can be quite exciting; they come in many different forms and colours and often the most interesting ones are hidden in the underbrush on rotting tree trunks. Since fall is just around the corner (sorry to mention it!) and mushrooms will be flourishing in Edmonton, here are a few interesting facts on fungi:
Fungi were once classified as plants but are now recognized as a separate kingdom. Unlike plants, fungi do not contain chlorophyll and are unable to produce their own food.
- The mushroom is the fruiting body of the fungus. The vegetative part of the fungus is found in the soil and is made up of a mass of threadlike filaments called hyphae, collectively known as mycelium. Mycelium can cover a huge area, with the largest known continuing mass estimated at 2400 acres in size!
- Fungi break down plant wastes through their mycelium. During this process nutrients and organic matter enrich the soil. Without fungi to break down these wastes we would be up to our neck in plant debris!
- Some plants form beneficial relationships with fungi to help them grow. These fungi are called “mycorrhizae” and attach to plants roots making some nutrients more accessible for plant growth.
Many foods that we consume can be attributed to fungi. Bread, some types of cheese, soda pop, beer, and even chocolate all depend on fungi in the process of being made.
- If you have ever taken Penicillin to treat an infection you can thank fungi. Penicillin is derived from fungi known as Penicillium.
When visiting Edmonton’s natural areas this fall be sure to keep an eye out for fungi. You may be surprised by what you see! To view photos of fungi found around Edmonton visit our Flickr Photostream.
*Some mushrooms are poisonous. Never consume a mushroom unless you can identify it as a non-poisonous species.