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.”