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Vol. LX, No. 22
October 31, 2008
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Fungus Among Us
‘Mushrooms’ Flourish on Campus This Fall

Fall is a good time to spot mushrooms on campus; some are so exotic-looking as to suggest Halloween horror. Among the species visible is “chicken of the woods” or Laetiporus sulphureus, says Lynn Mueller, landscape architect for the Office of Research Services. “The campus is literally covered with hundreds of varieties of fungi,” he said. “We generally call them mushrooms. Mushrooms are just one type or form of fungi. Others include molds, yeasts and mildew. Some fungi are beneficial to plants and some are not.

“Fungi help to decompose and recycle dead organic matter into reusable matter for other plants to use for growth,” Mueller continued.

Often seen on the campus during warmer and damp weather, he said, are “fairy ring toadstools,” jelly fungi, mildew on roses, flowerpot mushrooms, various “turkey tails” and chicken of the woods.

“Most are not edible,” he warned. “Only the morel, ‘shaggy mane’ and chicken of the woods [provided it is cooked properly] are edible but they can easily be confused with other like-shaped and colored mushrooms like the false or ‘beefsteak morel.’ Another very toxic one is the Death Angel. For the sake of your health, do not pick or eat any mushrooms found on the campus. Gather your button and shiitake mushrooms only at the grocery store.”

Staff from the Hard Times Cafe and volunteer servers pose at their booth.
A group of students from Walter Johnson High School get ready to enjoy the show No, that’s not Woodstock. Rather it’s the movie grounds, about an hour before start time
Volunteers who manned the candy booth

Campus trees this fall are costumed in fungi of various kinds, including “chicken of the woods” (middle, l) a species that can be eaten if properly cooked and which, unsurprisingly, is said to taste like chicken. “The campus is literally covered with hundreds of varities of fungi,” said Lynn Mueller, landcape architect. Don’t eat any, he warns. The only safe mushroom is a store-bought one.

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