- (Public Value) UCANR: Building climate-resilient communities and ecosystems
- 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!
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardener since July 2020./h4>/h4>/h4>/h4>
- Author: Anne Schellman
We will keep you updated on our progress through this blog as well as on social media via Facebook, Instagram, and/or our twitter page @UCMGStanislaus.
Many subscribers to this newsletter gave to this campaign, thank you! If you missed your chance to donate, you can still send a check to support the demonstration garden campaign. Please make checks payable to
UC Regents and send them to:
UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardener Program
3800 Cornucopia Way, Ste A
Modesto, CA 95358
- Author: Anne Schellman
How You Can Help
We appreciate any amount you can give. Credit card donations will be matched if we meet the qualifications below:
- $500 to the twenty groups with the most first time donors
- $500 to the first 10 funds that secure a $500 + donation
- $500 to the ten groups that raise the most funds
Only gifts made by online/credit card donations on the day of the event qualify for the prizes.
Now is a great time to make a tax-deductible donation to our organization! Visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/GivingTuesday/ and choose Stanislaus County Master Gardener Program.
If you prefer to donate a check, please make it out to UC Regents and send to:
UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardeners
3800 Cornucopia Way Ste A
Modesto, CA 95358
When will you begin creating the gardens?
We plan to begin working on one of the gardens in spring, and will keep you posted on our progress through this blog as well as our Facebook, Instagram and twitter accounts (@UCMGStanislaus). Our Sensory and Pollinator Gardens will be open to everyone to visit, and used during classes and workshops on drip irrigation, low water use plants, pollinator plants, and more!/h4>/h4>/h4>
- Author: Anthony Presto
Residential wood burning is the largest single source of particulate matter pollution in the Valley during winter months. For this reason, the District's residential wood smoke reduction program imposes restrictions on the use of fireplaces, wood stoves, fire pits and chimneys. The District recommends using other methods to heat your home unless wood burning is your sole source of heat. For full details on the District's Residential Wood Smoke Reduction Program, visit www.valleyair.org/rule4901.
Another source of air pollution are small engines on gas-powered yard care equipment, which have no emission controls. One gas-powered lawn mower can pollute as much as 12 late-model cars.
For every gas-powered lawn or garden tool, there is an electric or manual alternative that works just as well.
The District's Clean Green Yard Machines yard care incentive program provides significant rebates on electric lawn mowers, trimmers, edgers, pole saws and chain saws. For details on these incentives visit www.valleyair.org/cgym.
In addition, the Valley Air District suggests using a rake or broom instead of a blower. Leaf blowers create particulate matter in the form of dust and can be a nuisance to your neighbors.
Anthony Presto is the Outreach & Communications Representative for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District
- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
People often rake their leaves and put them out to be picked up as trash. I have always preferred to leave the leaves for my garden.
If you take a walk in a forest, you'll see leaf layers several inches deep around trees and bushes. Fallen leaves have a complex relationship with trees and nature, providing many benefits which can be reproduced to some extent in our gardens.
Fallen leaves have the same weed suppression and moisture retention properties of shredded wood mulch—and they're free! Where mulch is desired as a decorative element, what could be more seasonally appropriate than a pile of brightly colored fall leaves? This natural mulch also provides insulating winter cover from cold temperatures for roots, seeds, and bulbs.
A Web of Life in Leaf Litter
Leaf litter isn't just free fertilizer and mulch. It provides food and shelter for a wide variety of living things including spiders, snails, worms, beetles, millipedes, mites, toads, frogs and more—these in turn support mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians that rely on these creatures for food.
Detritivores (organisms that eat dead or decaying plants or animals) break up and excrete leaf litter. Fungi and bacteria then take over and complete the recycling process converting these smaller pieces into nutrients which then sustain neighboring plants. They in turn help support biodiversity by becoming food themselves.
Numerous bird species such as robins and towhees forage in the leaf layer searching for insects and other invertebrates to eat.
Raking up leaves and putting them in the trash could have the unintended consequence of removing some of next year's garden butterflies and moths, many of which are pollinators. Most butterflies and moths overwinter in the landscape as an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or adult. In all but the warmest climates, they often use leaf litter for winter cover. Fritillaries and wooly bear caterpillars will tuck themselves into a pile of leaves for protection from cold weather and predators. Some Hairstreaks lay their eggs on fallen oak leaves, which become the first food of the caterpillars when they emerge. Swallowtail butterflies disguise their cocoons and chrysalises as dried leaves, blending in with the “real” leaves.
Bumble bees also rely on leaf litter for protection. At the end of summer, mated queen bumble bees burrow an inch or two into the earth to hibernate for winter. An extra thick layer of leaves is welcome protection from the elements.
All of which makes leaf litter an integral part of a complex web of life.
What You Can Do
Composting leaves is a terrific way to recycle and create a nutrient-rich garden soil amendment at the same time. Some gardeners opt for shredding their fall leaves for use in compost piles. Like people who mulch their lawn leaves with a mower, consider leaving some leaves undisturbed in garden beds and lawn edges. If space allows, you could create a leaf pile, allowing it to break down naturally, or add the leaves gradually to your compost pile over time. Such efforts will keep leaf litter critters safe and allow you to benefit from the rich garden gift that falls from the trees above.
While it is ideal to “leave the leaves” permanently—for the benefits mentioned above—if you do decide you need to clean your garden and remove the leaves in spring, try to wait until later in the season, so as to give the critters that have been protected by fallen leaves over the winter time to emerge and depart.
Some gardeners may be concerned that autumn leaves, matted down by rain or snow, could have a negative impact on their perennials. However, a thick layer of leaves provides additional insulation against chilly weather and protects newly planted perennials from frost which could damage tender roots and shoots. Anyone who has spotted fragile spring seedlings popping up in the woods knows that all but the most fragile of plants will erupt through the leaf litter in spring without trouble.
So, leave the leaves. While you can't perfectly emulate a forest, your garden will be healthier and more diversified, you'll help support a vast array of wildlife, and you'll reduce the strain on landfills.
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardener since July 2020./h3>/h3>/h3>