Arboretum Paths: It’s time for a fall mushroom walk

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 30, 2017

By Patricia R. Drackett, director of the Crosby Arboretum and
assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

All this recent rain is creating the ideal conditions for mushrooms! Does the world of fungi fascinate you? If so, join us at the Crosby Arboretum on Saturday, September 9, for a morning walk with celebrated biology teacher Dr. Juan Mata, University of South Alabama.
Dr. Mata has been leading our mushroom walks for almost a decade, beginning with his 2008 presentation and walk during the trail dedication for local mycophile Dr. Bill Cibula, who passed away in 2005. Dr. Mata first became acquainted with Dr. Cibula’s work while conducting his master’s research at the University of Costa Rica.
For many years, Dr. Cibula led legendary fungi forays down the Crosby Arboretum’s pathways, and we delight to hear the stories told by those he inspired to delve into the kingdom Fungi. The Cibula Trail is a woodland path with interpretive signage on fungi, near the north Savanna Exhibit.
For the upcoming walk, Dr. Mata will give an overview of the fascinating ecology, taxonomy, and relationship of fungi to mankind, and provide instructions on how to collect mushrooms. The group will then disperse to collect and bring back the mushrooms they find to be assorted and identified.
On last year’s mushroom walk, several dozen different species were collected and discussed, including Boletes (fleshy, pored mushrooms), Amanitas (ring on stipe and sac on base), gilled mushrooms, polypores, and puffballs. Helpful items to bring to the mushroom walk include a basket, wax paper or a towel to separating specimens, and a pocket knife.
The Arboretum is host to many species of mushrooms, both edible and non-edible varieties. But sampling any mushrooms without knowing exactly what you are ingesting is a recipe for trouble.
One strikingly beautiful group of mushrooms, the genus Amanita, contains some of the most toxic species in the world.
Some Amanita species are not deadly, but eating them will result in symptoms resembling alcohol poisoning, causing delirium and coma. The orange eastern form of Fly Agaric is common to the woodland and savanna exhibits at the Arboretum. The caps are brilliant shades of orange, dotted with whitish warty spots.
Bolete mushrooms are also common at the Arboretum. They are important symbiotic partners with pines and oaks, and therefore beneficial to our coastal vegetation types.
When people think of fungi, they usually picture mushrooms. But mushrooms are just a small fraction of the fungal diversity found in our coastal woodlands. When you see a mushroom, you are actually looking at the above-ground fruiting bodies of a fungus. The vegetative body is an extensive underground network of tubular filaments called a mycelium.
A cubic inch of soil can contain more than 8 miles of mycelia! Fungal mats are the largest biological entities on the planet, and some individuals may cover over 20,000 acres.
Pearl River County residents are fortunate they have an excellent local opportunity for learning more about the world of mushrooms in Poplarville, at Shroomdom, Inc. Owners Leilani and Tony Rosenbaum offer mushroom tours through their diverse 160-acre “enchanted” forest. Meals featuring gourmet mushrooms are available for individuals or tour groups at their farm, as well as classes on how to cultivate mushrooms. For more information or to sign up for a tour, call 601-795-2611.
Consider joining the Gulf States Mycological Society, where you can learn more about mushrooms in our region and have opportunities for seasonal walks, called “forays”, in the company of both amateur and professional mycologists. For more information, see
Dr. Mata’s mushroom walk is 10:00 AM to Noon on September 9. That afternoon, Pearl River County artist, poet, writer, world traveler, and nature appreciator Erlene Smith will present a program from 1:00 to 2:00 PM on “Using Art to Capture the Beauty of Nature”, and touch on her world travels, and her painting, writing, and the expressive media she uses to inspire others. Join us from 2:00 to 3:00 PM, for the opening event for her work, our fall gallery exhibit in the Visitor Center. Light refreshments will be served, and the opening event is free to the public.
Call the Arboretum office at 601-799-2311 to sign up for the mushroom walk or “Beauty of Nature” program. Each program is only $5 for non-members, and free to members. Please understand that if programs have filled, walk-ins will not be accepted, to avoid overcrowding.
For more information, see
The Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).

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