I Spy Friday: Mushrooms

Russula emetica mushroom education on mushrooms

I found this pretty little mushroom in the wooded area right next to our driveway.  It disappeared just as quickly as it came.  It’s true that mushrooms often seem to spring up overnight.  I learned that once the “button” or base of the mushroom forms, the mushroom starts rapidly absorbing water and grows from a button on the ground to its full size in just a few days.  Once a mushroom sheds its spores, it starts to shrivel up and disappear.

I think I’ve always had a healthy fear of mushrooms–knowing that some can be very poisonous.  (Thankfully, Holden was not around when I snapped this picture, so there was no temptation for him to taste!)  I discovered that this mushroom species is likely the Russula emetica.  It can cause GI upset but is not deadly.

After learning more about mushrooms for this I Spy Friday post, I’ve decided that they are incredibly fascinating and one of those mysterious wonders found in nature.  I still don’t think I’ll choose to touch them in the wild, but if I discover one, I’ll definitely examine it more thoroughly.

The coolest thing I learned about mushrooms was the process by which they spread their spores.  Spores are, essentially, the seeds of life for a mushroom and the way they spread and grow into new mushrooms.  Spores are tiny specks that drop from the underside of the “cap” (umbrella top) of a mushroom.  For a long time, scientists thought that the spores simply fell to the ground passively.  But instead, some mushrooms (and perhaps all of them) actually create their own air flow by letting their moisture evaporate.  As the moisture on the mushroom evaporates, the cold air and water vapor that results actually spreads out and takes the spores with it.  It might not seem far, but this process lets the spores spread up to 4 inches away from the mushroom, which gives them a greater chance of finding a good place to begin growing again.

Here is the neatest thing of all….I still can’t even believe this and can’t wait to give it a try: if you use a flashlight in the woods at night, you can see spores leaving mushrooms in vapor clouds!  Wow!  Nature is crazy cool!

Here is a picture from MailOnline.  Special cameras were used to capture this crazy phenomenon.


Can you find some mushrooms today?  Better yet, can you sneak up on them at night and see them spreading out their spores?  I would love to know if you get a firsthand look!





Sarah Korhnak

A nature lover busy making her own backyard brilliant!

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