Beneficial of the Week 4

rubbery fungal fruiting bodies – the part of fungi most often visible – disperse spores and are sometimes edible
fluffy white fungal hyphae – the part of the fungus usually hidden in soil or wood – strands grow through the substrate the fungus is digesting  in its search for carbon

It’s fungi season in the Pacific Northwest! Although we will be fighting mildew and other fungal invasions for the next eight months or so, the benefits of fungi are so numerous, it’s hard to know where to start.

Some fun facts from Ecology for Gardeners by Carroll and Salt (2004), and Life in the Soil by James Nardi (2007):

  • “As much as 50 to 80 percent of the entire living biomass… in a garden soil sample may be fungal tissue.”
  • “Some soil-dwelling …fungi live in the soil closely surrounding plant roots, where they feed on nutrients leaking from roots and help to defend plants from attach by pathogenic fungi and bacteria.”
  • “Along with bacteria, fungi are the main recyclers of nutrients and a major source of nutrition for many of the animals of the soil.”
  • Mycorrhizal fungal associations with plant roots have a 400 million year history! Without fungal strands to mine the soil for nutrients and water, most plants would not survive.
  • “…fungi known as Trichomycetes (tricho=hair; myco=fungi) form partnerships with a number of soil-dwelling arthropods such as millipedes [a previous guest on Beneficial of the Week]. These specialized fungi live only in association with specific arthropods and only in the guts of these arthropods.

Specialized for decomposition, fungi keep us from being miles deep in detritus, dung, and cellulose-rich plant debris. They bring nutrients that are locked in tissues back to the soil, where they can be used by plants to feed and clothe us.

RESPECT to the fungi that dwell among us!

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