This post will show pictures of wild mushrooms and fungi that have appeared in our home garden as well as elsewhere.
Some of these infrequent guests that seem to pop up overnight when the conditions are right are stunningly beautiful, or at the least they’re unusual and worthy of note.
A few pictures of ones that have shown up in our backyard on occasion are included here. I have not yet captured some of the really unusual orange- to reddish-colored ones that always seem to appear during the Christmas season in our front yard. Perhaps I’ll try to get some photos this year and add them to this post later.
My very talented and artistic cousin Bill Gullickson, who lives in Peoria, Illinois, emailed me photos of wild mushrooms and fungi that he has captured on film in woods where he takes frequent walks.
People reading this article will get the benefit of seeing a much greater diversity of beautifully shaped and colored mushrooms than the ones merely appearing in our garden, thanks to Bill’s photographic efforts and his willingness to share his pictures with others.
The tiny mushrooms that are pictured in the photos above are like small translucent parasols. They are on average no more than about two inches high and primarily show up in a rock garden area of our yard.
When the sun hits them they rapidly seem to curl up and disappear back into the ground from which they sprung.
So seeing these very illusive little umbrella-shaped mushrooms is a treat that does not last long.
In reading about mushrooms the word “mycelium” was used.
The AOL dictionary describes mycelium in the following terms: “the mass of interwoven filamentous hyphae that forms especially the vegetative portion of the thallus of a fungus and is often submerged in another body (as of soil or organic matter or the tissues of a host).”
These interconnected, woven, mat-like strands of cells can cover small areas or huge ones that cover multiple acres of land. Mycelium can also be found inside the roots of some trees. While most of it may be unseen, it does the job of filtering needed nutrients and recycling them.
Mushrooms are like the fruits of a fungus. They produce spores which are similar to seeds and are spread by wind or even other animals who have come in contact with them.
Mycorrhizal mushrooms and the roots of living trees where they become attached mutually benefit from the relationship. Besides increasing the water and nutrient absorption to the trees or their roots, mycorrhizal mushrooms also offer some resistance to other plant pathogens thus helping to protect the trees. Thus these types of mushrooms are symbiotic in nature.
Have you ever noticed rings of mushrooms growing around trees? Those are undoubtedly mycorrhizal mushrooms living on and aiding the roots of those trees.
This, in fact, is the prime role that all mushrooms and fungi do. They continually recycle essential nutrients to the soil or their hosts.
Parasitic mushrooms reside on living plants and can often end up killing their hosts. However they still have some value. Taxol the potent anti-cancer drug found to be effective in treating breast cancer comes from a parasitic mushroom, as an example.
Saprophytic mushrooms recycle already dead plant material.
The tiny black edged mushrooms pictured above appeared in the shredded pine bark that we use as mulch in our garden beds. Undoubtedly they were saprophytic mushrooms doing their job of speeding up the breakdown of that mulch. No wonder we have to top-dress our mulch every year because it seems to disappear!
Most of the gourmet mushrooms that are offered up for sale and eaten each year are saprophytic in nature. Oyster mushrooms are an example.
The attractive mushrooms photographed above were found on the side of our yard one day. They seemed to be growing right out of the soil. There was no mulch or apparent rotting wood nearby.
In that last photo, I had moved them, broke them in half, and laid them on an area that had been mulched just to take the picture. I have no idea what type of mushrooms they were, but they were very substantial and fleshy.
Above is a stunning array of different varieties of mushrooms showing distinctive forms, colors and textures. I have my cousin Bill to thank for these pictures.
When I was a child growing up in the countryside of Wisconsin, there was a woods nearby. Under one particular tree in the Spring of the year was found some morel mushrooms that seemed to thrive in that one spot. The best description of what a morel mushrooms looks like is that of a sea sponge.
Each year that became a singular dining event when the morels were picked and eaten. My mother simply sauteed them in butter.
The very last year before my parents relocated to Texas we were informed by a native Indian lady who lived nearby that the puffballs that we kids had been playing with for years were edible.
We had been picking the white globe-like mushrooms and then would throw the puffballs onto the ground with some force. They would explode in a “puff” of smokiness…obviously the spores were widespread by us doing that. Possibly that is how they received their name?
The puffballs were delicious! Had we only known that they were edible, we could have been easily supplied with free mushrooms for many months of the year. The puffballs would grow to diameters of between 8 to 24 inches, so were very large mushrooms. They matured in the Fall of the year and were very abundant where we happened to live.
That being said, I would never encourage anyone to pick and eat wild mushrooms without being really sure of what one is doing. There are many look alike mushrooms and some are very poisonous.
Be safe, rather than sorry!
Perhaps you will look at mushrooms in the stores or growing wild in nature with a little more understanding of the important nature of their job.
- Mushrooms are a source of food.
- They help break down decaying organisms and redistribute nutrients.
- There are medicinal uses for mushrooms and they are even being utilized in some cases of toxic waste cleanups.
Hopefully you have enjoyed these pictures of the various types of mushroom, fungi and especially all the wild ones provided so graciously by my cousin Bill as well as those taken by me.
A friend sent me the photos below and wishes to see if anyone can identify this type of mushroom. They look similar to an underbaked pizza. If anyone reading this knows the answer, please use the comment section below to write the name of them. Thanks!