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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Page 26 of 67

April 2019 • Nebraskaland 27 The Park's Rich Mushroom Diversity At Indian Cave, Brueggemann has identifi ed about 80 mushrooms to the species level. Others, such as the extremely diffi cult "little brown mushrooms," he can identify only to the group level. In coming years, he expects to unearth many more species in the park. When asked how many mushroom species grow in Nebraska, he said the answer to that question is unknown. He explained that there have been no recent mushroom surveys in our state, and that earlier collections made in Nebraska, which reside at various herbaria here and in other states, have never been evaluated for accuracy of identifi cation, nor tallied. Complicating the situation, "we have no mushroom experts in Nebraska, absolutely none," said Bob Kaul, curator at the Bessey Herbarium. "Mycology [the study of fungi] is a dying fi eld. Few universities now train fi eld mycologists, and many that are trained are plant pathologists who deal only with fungi that are forest or crop pests." Although the Bessey Herbarium has more than 50,000 fungus specimens in its collections, the vast majority were collected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Nebraska colleges and universities employed mycologists. "UNL hasn't had a fi eld mycologist on staff since the 1960s," Kaul said. The fact that Brueggemann has found 12 new state records at Indian Cave alone attests to our state's lack of mycologists and surveys. North America has roughly 10,000 known mushroom species. The nearby states of Minnesota and Colorado have both documented about 1,300 species, and Nebraska's mushroom diversity could be similar. Accurately determining which mushrooms grow in Nebraska, let alone their abundance, range, habitats, and conservation needs, will require professionally trained mycologists, as well as other self-trained amateurs with a passion for discovery like Brueggemann. Stump puff balls, common in eastern Nebraska, eject spores when pelted by raindrops or bumped by animals. Resembling a creature from the ocean fl oor, the crown- tipped coral mushroom can be found growing in moist areas on decaying hardwoods spring through fall. The widespread mica cap mushroom dissolves into a black inky, spore-laden liquid when mature. They commonly grow in clusters near or on rotting hardwood stumps or roots. PHOTO BY CHANCE BRUEGGEMANN PHOTO BY GERRY STEINAUER PHOTO BY GERRY STEINAUER

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