There is a Fungus Among Us!
Fall is a great time to learn about fungi (the plural of fungus) because as the weather cools and rains come more often, mushrooms will start to show up on lawns and in the woods. You wouldn't believe how important fungi are to people!
Have you eaten a fungus today? I'll bet you have! The yeast which makes bread rise is a fungus. So if you ate a sandwich or had toast, you ate some fungus.
Has history ever been made by fungi? Yes! The Great Potato Famine of Ireland which began in 1845 caused thousands to starve to death and caused thousands more to move to America. It was caused by a fungus disease which ruined the potato crop.
Have you been helped in some way by fungi recently? Again, it's a safe bet you have.
1. If you have walked in the woods, it's because fungi have been rotting dead leaves and branches away for years. Without their help we would be over our heads in dead plants (and animals).
2. If you have enjoyed the shade of a tree, you have probably been helped by a fungus. Most trees in North America have fungi growing on their roots which help them get chemicals and water from the soil.
3. If you have ever been sick and taken an antibiotic, you were helped by a fungus. The first modern antibiotic, penicillin, came from a kind of fungus most people call mold.
Here are some fungus fun things to do:
Draw the different mushrooms you see. How many different colors of mushrooms can you find?
Make spore prints. Take the top or cap from a mushroom. Place it on a piece of paper with the side that was closest to the ground resting on the paper. Place a bowl over it and leave it over night. Pick up the bowl and the mushroom cap and look at the pattern of spores on the paper. You can save the pattern by spraying the paper with artist's fixative or hair spray. Are the spores light or dark? Would they show up better on a different colored paper? What is the spore pattern like?
Tip: After touching any fungus, as with any natural living thing, it is a good idea to wash your hands. Never eat any fungus you find unless you have help from an adult expert!
Go on a mushroom walk with a local club.
There are some great mushroom sites on the Internet:
One of the best sites for students is The Mushroom Club. It has games, pictures and lots of interesting stuff.
Hobbyists and more advanced students should start at MykoWeb.