Gift #467: Russula mushrooms

As I browse through my pictures over the summer and into fall, I must face a startling conclusion about myself.  I cannot walk past a mushroom without photographing it.  And I also seem incapable of walking through a forest without ferreting out any possible mushrooms, or fungi in general.  A review of my Spring Mill photos reveals an average ratio of mushrooms to trees at about 2:1.  I’m still debating on if this is a condition that requires professional intervention.  In the meantime it only seems fair to share with you some of the autumn fungi that adorn Indiana forests.  So today I will introduce you to a new friend which I saw for the very first time in the wild.

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This is a mycorrhizal mushroom of the genus Russula.  I cannot give an exact species name for alas, that requires microscopic evaluation, staining, and sometimes….tasting.  It is a strong rule of mine to only taste mushrooms located in the produce aisle of my grocery store…. just in case – being a biologist, I heard my fair share of horror stories.  But I digress….

Mycorrhizal mushrooms are fungi that live within or among plant roots in a symbiotic relationship.  The fungi help provide and enhance the plant’s uptake of essential minerals and nutrients, usually sparse in the soil.  In exchange the fungi benefits from the sugars produced by the plant.  It’s estimated that 85% of land plants share this relationship with fungi.  Most every vascular plant has its own mycorrhizal fungi and without them most plants would not obtain enough nutrients to survive.   This is why you usually find mushrooms springing up nearby tree roots.

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I love red mushrooms and was secretly hoping to find some in the wild on this trip.  And I did!!  They were amazingly beautiful.  I’ve read some conflicting information that the white spots on the mushroom caps are either a natural phenomenon of the cap flaking off or it can be due to slugs munching on the caps for dinner.  Either way, I think it adds some character to the beautiful mushrooms.  I’ll be back with more pictures of leaves, trees, and mushrooms tomorrow.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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