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  • Writer's pictureHenrichsenWood

What the Fungi?

Trees and fungi go together like peanut butter and jelly. They mesh. They meld. They are BFF's. And why is that exactly?

Well, they are part of the whole birth, life, death, turn into compost cycle that allows our ecosystem to function properly. Fungi are the recycling powerhouses of the natural world and without them everything would be covered in woody debris. Fungus acts quickly given the right conditions and environment. Sometimes that's what we like and other times, not so much. When a downed log is slightly colonized by fungi the effect is called spalted, and can result in some beautiful lumber. Too much fungi and, well, that's what we like to call rotted. If you have logs on your property you want to have milled into lumber, consider lifting those timbers off the ground as soil contact will speed up the decomposition (aka rotting) cycle. As you can imagine, rotted wood makes very poor lumber.

Some fungi form a mutually symbiotic relationship with trees which is called Mycorrhiza (fungi do this with other plants as well, but hey, we are a tree service.) As you may remember from Jr. High Biology, symbiosis is a close relationship between two living things. In mutual symbiosis, both living things benefit from the relationship...think you and your BFF. What happens is the fungus colonizes and forms a network with the tree's root structures and surrounding area, improving its moisture and nutrient absorption capabilities. In exchange, the tree provides the fungus carbohydrates produced through photosynthesis. Win win! And to add a third win into that equation is the fact that some of the fungi in a mutual relationship with a tree are ah-mazing to eat - looking at you golden chanterelles. So the tree wins, the fungi wins and we win!

Warning: In case you don't have this information yet....many mushrooms are DEADLY to people. So! Before foraging your own mushrooms, seek expert advice. And when in any doubt, throw the mushroom out!

But not all fungi/tree relationships are good. Some are relationships only benefit one of the organisms (Commensalism), and some relationships actually hurt one of the organisms (Parasitism), that one generally being the tree. And then some fungi are downright murderous to trees in the forest. But, cycle of life, right?

Speaking of cycle of life, just think about how many tons of woody debris we would be buried in if fungi didn't do their jobs. The decomposers or saprotrophs take that massive tree stump, branches, leaves & limbs and turn it all into mulchy goodness - with nothing more than a little time and moisture. Oyster and Shitake mushrooms are examples of saprotrophs that decompose stumps and logs while making delicious food too.

So, there's your highly condensed, terrifically simplified reasoning as to why trees & fungi go well together. Have a fun(gi) day!


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