- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
What are Mushrooms?
Mushrooms, also known as toadstools, are the visible reproductive body of a fungus which produces spores. Mushrooms seem to magically appear and then quickly disappear. The fruiting body you see releases its spores to be spread by air currents, with the mushroom then drying up. When spores land in a satisfactory location they will germinate, sending out long filaments called hyphae.
The standard visible morphology of a mushroom is a stipe (stem) topped by a cap with gills on the underside, but mushrooms come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and uses. The common mushroom is the cultivated white button mushroom we see in stores. Other shapes include puffball, stinkhorn, morel, bolete, shelf, truffles, bird's nests, orange peel, and agarics. Colors vary from white, black, brown, yellow, and occasionally orange and reds. Sizes range from microscopic to 5 feet in diameter!
Many mushrooms also have an underground filament called mycelium (plural: mycelia). You can sometimes see mycelia when turning over a rotting log or by digging underneath a cluster of mushrooms. The mycelia will look like a stringy mat of white fibers in and around plant and tree roots.
History & Uses
The terms “mushroom” and “toadstool” go back centuries. Much of their mystery is due to their association with poisonings and accidental deaths. They were thought to be special and supernatural by many cultures including Egyptians and Romans who associated them with their rulers and gods. Chinese and Japanese cultures have utilized mushrooms for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Hallucinogenic mushroom species have a history of use among Indigenous people of Mesoamerica for religious purposes and healing from pre-Columbian times. People today correlate hallucinogenic mushrooms with the hippie period in the 1960s. Edible mushroom species have been found in 13,000-year-old archaeological sites in Chile. Truffles have been collected as far back as 1600 BC.
Poisonous mushrooms can be very hard to identify in the wild, so unless you have been taught how to classify mushrooms by an expert, it is recommended you buy from a reliable grocery store. Mycologists identify mushrooms by observing their morphology, getting spore prints, microscopic study, and with mushroom keys, though applying DNA technology is becoming common.
You can also grow your own mushrooms at home – kits are available online and at some plant nurseries.
Mushrooms in Your Garden and Lawn
- Common mushrooms in gardens include inky caps, stinkhorns, puffballs, or bird's nests.
- A “fairy ring” of mushrooms is an arc of mushrooms around a circle of darker green lawn, often in shady areas. They get their name from an ancient belief that fairies danced in these circles around the mushrooms.
- Mushrooms in lawns often develop from buried scraps such as pieces of wood or dead tree roots.
- A cluster of honey-colored mushrooms may appear at the base of a tree in the fall. These don't usually appear unless the host tree is dying.
- New lawns require frequent irrigation until established, thus creating a perfect setting for mushrooms, which is why they often appear in freshly planted lawns.
Remember, the mushrooms you see are the fruiting bodies that produce spores. Thus, removing them will not kill the underground mycelia from which they are growing, unless you pick them prior to their release of spores. However, you can try to reduce the number of mushrooms you have by decreasing the amount and frequency of watering your lawn and let the grass dry in between. For more information in dealing with mushrooms in your lawn, visit the UC IPM website at http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74100.html
Whether you see mushrooms in the forest, in your lawn or neighborhood, I hope you can appreciate and enjoy these unique, complex, beautiful, valuable, diverse, and magical organisms!
-This article was originally published on December 6, 2021.
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardener since July 2020./h4>/h4>/h4>/h4>
- Author: Anne Schellman
Why spray for peach leaf curl disease?
Right now, the fungus that causes leaf curl is present on your trees. Once spring arrives, its spores “move” via water droplets splashed onto developing leaves. When the environment is right, these spores invade newly developing leaves, growing in between leaf cells and causing distortion of cells.
Symptoms of peach leaf curl disease include puckering leaves that curl and turn a reddish color. Often the entire first set of leaves may drop off. When new leaves begin to grow, these leaves are also infested. Twigs and shoots distort and often die. Fruit is rarely affected. However, left untreated, nectarine and peach trees begin to decline and fruit production is substantially reduced.
Often when gardeners see symptoms of leaf curl disease on their tree, they are tempted to pull off the affected leaves, thinking this will help. Unfortunately, there is little to do at this point to control the disease.
Insects, diseases, and weeds are pests, and products used to kill them are called pesticides. Whether a product is organic or not, it can still have an impact on you and/or the environment, so be sure to follow the directions on the product label regarding personal protection, correct mixing, and application. When spraying, make sure to coat the tree until the product is dripping off. Come spring, your peach and nectarine tree trees should leaf out and grow vigorously, followed by a healthy crop of fruit.
Learn more about peach leaf curl by visiting the UC IPM website and reading their Quick Tips on it at http://ipm.ucanr.edu/QT/peachleafcurlcard.html For more detailed information about this disease, read the Pest Notes at http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7426.html
Bare root fruit trees are arriving in nurseries and garden centers. If you are thinking about planting fruit trees but aren't sure what to plant, how to plant, and how to care for them, you'll want to attend our online Bare Root Fruit Tree Planting and Pruning Class on January 25, 2022. More details coming next week.
If you have fruit trees that produce a lot of small fruit, you may be missing an important step in growing fruit trees called "thinning." Next month we'll publish an article on how and when to thin fruit from Ed Perry, retired UCCE Stanislaus County Emeritus Horticulture Advisor.
Anne Schellman is the UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardener Program Coordinator.
- Author: Anne E Schellman
Over the past few months, gardeners have asked the UCCE Master Gardeners for help with their grapes. They want to know:
- What's this white powdery substance on my grape plants?
- Why are my grapes so small?
- What's causing my grapes to split?
- What can I do to “save” my grape plants?
The culprit is a common grape disease called powdery mildew. This fungus leaves a telltale white powdery coating on plants. It also deforms leaves, shoots, and grapes. Young grapes can be stunted or scarred, and sometimes split open.
We've told gardeners that unfortunately, powdery mildew can't be eradicated. For now, gently hosing down plants weekly with water will help to wash off and kill the spores.
In winter, prune grapes and remove and destroy infected materials. During spring, use fungicides to protect grapevines. Timing is important. Read about how and when to prevent and control this disease in the publication Pest Notes: Powdery Mildew.
Small grapes are a result of too many clusters of grapes on a vine. The clusters will need to be thinned. Sometimes gardeners have trouble doing this. It may feel like you are throwing away perfectly good fruit! However, thinning out grape clusters is a necessary task that should be done in early spring during the first three to four weeks after fruit has set.
Study up on grapes now! Then you'll know what you need to do next year. For information on pruning, thinning, and growing grapes, visit The California Garden Web page Growing Grapes in Your Backyard.