Nebraskaland April 2019

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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22 Nebraskaland • April 2019 Unveiling the Mysterious Mushrooms By Gerry Steinauer, Botanist, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission hen in the rugged, wooded bluff s of Indian Cave State Park, Chance Brueggemann is always on the lookout for mushrooms. Last summer, while hiking with Chance, he would occasionally stop, point out a mushroom and rattle off its scientifi c name, usually with an added comment, such as "that one is parasitic on oaks" or "I've eaten that one, it's not bad." Mushroom identifi cation is extremely diffi cult, and only few Nebraskans can name more than the common edible species. Considering Brueggemann has been studying mushrooms as a hobby for only a few years, his knowledge is impressive. A Mushrooming Hobby In 2014, Brueggemann, who grew up in nearby Auburn and attended Peru State College with a major in biology, began working at Indian Cave as a temporary employee. His main job was the onerous task of controlling invasive woodland weeds. Now employed by the Northern Prairies Land Trust, he is the park's full-time woodland ecologist. "I became interested in mushrooms during my second year at the park," Brueggemann said. "I'd be out working and see all these amazing shapes and colors and began wondering what these mushrooms were. I had no clue." He started taking photos and comparing them to those in a borrowed fi eld guide. He then bought his own fi eld guides as his interest increased. It turns out, the 3,400-acre Indian Cave, located adjacent to the Missouri River in Nemaha and Richardson counties, was the perfect place for his mushrooming hobby. The park receives about 33 inches of precipitation a year. In the wooded hillsides, canopied by varied hardwoods including oaks, hickories and other trees, that moisture helps create ideal mushroom habitat. It is not a stretch to say the park may support our state's greatest mushroom diversity per acre. Brueggemann collects mushrooms for later detailed examination, and for uncommon species, eventual deposit at the University of Nebraska's Bessey Herbarium. He dries the herbarium specimens overnight in a standard fruit drier set on low, preserving them for long-term storage. When photographing or collecting mushrooms, he also records habitat information which can aid in species identifi cation. Because many mushrooms grow only on or near specifi c trees, soils or other habitats, he notes nearby PHOTO BY GERRY STEINAUER The rare rosy veincap grows on a hardwood stump at Indian Cave State Park. OF INDIAN CAVE STATE PARK PHOTO BY CHANCE BRUEGGEMANN W

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