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.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 67

24 Nebraskaland • April 2019 tree species and the substrate in which the mushroom is growing, such as moist soil or rotting wood. He also records the date, because just as plants fl ower at a certain time of year, mushroom species fruit at specifi c times as well. In the fi eld, Brueggemann often "takes a good sniff and nibble" of unknown mushrooms, though he avoids tasting those from known toxic groups and always spits out the nibble. "Mushrooms can have a distinct smell or taste that are clues to identifi cation," he said. "Their odor can range from earthy to fi shy to sulfurous, while their taste can vary from bland to sweet to spicy hot like a pepper." He also performs simple chemical tests. This involves placing a drop of potassium hydroxide and/or ammonia on a mushroom. The subsequent chemical reaction causes the fl esh of some species to change color. A drop of potassium hydroxide on the cap of the ringless honey mushroom, for example, will turn its fl esh red, whereas the same chemical placed on the closely-related and similar looking bulbous honey mushroom results in no color change. Some species can be determined only through examination of their microscopic spores. At home, if needed, Brueggemann makes spore prints to determine a mushroom's spore color, often a distinguishing characteristic. To make a print, he cuts the mushroom's cap from the stem and places it gill- or pore- side down on a sheet of white or black paper. Usually within Mushrooms are fungi, a group of unicellular or multicellular spore-producing organisms that feed on organic matter. In addition to mushrooms, the fungi include yeasts, molds and rusts. Defying traditional belief, recent studies have found that fungi are more closely related to animals than plants. Mushrooms, also known as macrofungi, are a somewhat artificial and convenient grouping of fleshy-bodied fungi with large fruiting bodies visible to the human eye. Macrofungi include the classic toadstools, puffballs, morels, shelf fungi, cup fungi, jelly fungi and many other groups. Microfungi include yeasts, molds and rusts and are visible only by the diseases, decay and molding they cause. Mushrooms are deceiving. What we see – the toadstool or puffball, for example – is only the organism's short-lived fruiting body, the tip of the mushroom iceberg so to speak. A mushroom's long-lived, main body and feeding stage, the mycelium, is hidden below ground or in other substrates, such as decaying leaves and logs. The fruiting bodies form from nodules on the mycelium. A toadstool is a fruiting body with a stem and cap. The underside of the cap has gills or pores in which prolific microscopic spores develop. As the cap ripens the spores fall and are dispersed by the wind and rain. Other mushrooms lack stems and caps and therefore gills and pores. In puffballs, for example, the spores develop in the interior of the fleshy, ball- shaped mushroom and are dispersed as it degrades. Many outdoorsmen and women are tempted to kick dried puffballs, amused by the resulting spore cloud. The mycelium is composed of a mass of threadlike (one cell thick) hyphae that, similar to plant roots, snake through the soil or other substrate. Here, they release enzymes and acids that break down organic matter, mainly plant cells, into simpler compounds they can ingest. Hyphal strands can spread up to an inch a day, sometimes forming huge mycelial masses in the soil. The world's largest known organism is a fungus whose mycelium spans roughly 2,400 acres of an Oregon mountaintop. What is a Mushroom? PHOTO BY CHANCE BRUEGGEMANN Drops of potassium hydroxide turn the fl esh of the cinnamon bracket purple, distinguishing it from other bracket mushrooms which grow on hardwoods.

Articles in this issue

view archives of NEBRASKAland - Nebraskaland April 2019