Question of the Week: August 20, 2020

“I keep getting mushrooms popping up in my lawn and landscape. Are they harmful? Is any of them edible?”

Mushrooms and toadstools are mysterious things. But they’re part of Nature’s life processes, and as such we ought to learn to enjoy them.

These “lower” forms of plant life fall into the category of saprophytic funguses. That means that they live off decaying organic matter (as compared to parasitic funguses that gain sustenance from living plants).

These mushroom photos were both posted to my Facebook page with a form of the question outlined above.

In almost all cases, having mushrooms in your lawn does not suggest any cause for concern. They’re not bothering your living plants. You can break them off with your foot or with a hoe or rake. Left on their own, they will usually disappear within two or three days. They may never return again.

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However, people also want to know if they are edible, and that answer is usually “No!” Several species are quickly fatal if eaten, and unless you’re a trained mycologist (a botanist with specialization in funguses), the gamble is far too great. Buy your mushrooms at the grocery where you know they’ll be safe.

In the meantime, just enjoy them for their diversity and beauty. They appear overnight, and they usually disappear just the same way. Fun little jewels to watch.

Fairy ring

What about “fairy rings?”
If you drop a pebble into still water it will cause a series of concentric rings to start to develop. The rings will grow larger and larger.

As mushrooms go through successive generations, they will cast their spores into new sources of organic matter as they expand where they appear. Often that will be in circles of mushrooms, referred to by early botanists as “fairy rings.” As with rainbows, the more complete the ring, the more cause you have to celebrate!

Posted by Neil Sperry
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