Foraging for fungus in Foster

FOSTER, R.I. (WLNE) — There’s a lot to see on a walk through the woods in Southern New England. From birds to trees to even mushrooms, ABC 6’s Kelly Bates shows us how to find the abundance of wild fungus all year long.

As we head into the middle of spring, the woods are waking up. Although we aren’t in full foliage quite yet, you may be surprised to know fungus has been hard at work in these woods all winter long.

Deana Thomas from the Rhode Island Mycological Society says, “Some fungi love the winter because there’s less competition and they just prefer the cold.”

Winter funguses are responsible for breaking down and decomposing organic matter to provide food for insects and other animals. This process also provides nutrients to make healthy soils for plants. If you take a walk through the woods now, you have to look under things to find mushrooms and they won’t look like what you’d find in the store.

Spike Mikulski is an amanitologist and specializes in this type of fungus.

He noted, “Mycelium, which is the actual mushroom, looks like these little white roots of sorts and you’ll see it will go through the leaves on the ground and it’s eating those leaves and decomposing those. If you move the leaves and you’ll see it.”

What you consume as a mushroom is known as the fruiting body of the mushroom. That’s how the fungus reproduces: it’s the fruiting body that releases the spores. That means everywhere you step here; you’re walking on mycelium. You’re stepping on mushrooms.

When you walk through the woods, you’ll see mushrooms in a variety of forms.

Mikulski said, “I do the same trails over and over again at different times of the year and you will see the variety every few weeks, especially in one season you’ll notice the change in the habitat, plants and the mushrooms.”

Enter the Rhode Island Mycological Society, a group of knowledgeable fungi fans who are dedicated to getting the word out about all types of fungus and the vital role they play in our ecology.

Thomas said we need more people paying attention to them and understanding their value.

She said, “It’s like a treasure hunt — you never know what you’re going to find out there. They come in all different shapes, colors and they’re bizarre and beautiful.”

So, keep an eye out for fungi on your next walk in the woods and if you need help identifying what you’re looking at, send a picture to the Rhode Island Mycological Society through their website

Categories: News, Rhode Island, Scientifically Speaking