Fungi are decorating the Arboretum trails

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 20, 2019

By Patricia R. Drackett
Director, The Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University
Assistant Extension Professor of Landscape Architecture

Recent rains have increased the forest floor’s moisture and created the ideal conditions for a late fall “blossoming” of mushrooms. Cooler weather has had little effect in slowing their robust growth. New species are appearing along the pathways every day.

Mushrooms and fungi at the Arboretum come in so many shapes and sizes. A short walk down the pathways on a “good” period may reveal a dozen different species.

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Bright red or yellow fly agaric (Amanita) mushrooms, covered with characteristic raised white warts, are common to the coastal areas. Although they are beautiful, they are quite poisonous.

Amanita begins its emergence as small colorless knobs and will unfurl into tall bright parasols in only a day or two. Their coloring and dramatic form makes them a frequently depicted mushroom in fairy tale landscapes. Fly agaric is simply downright charming when it occurs in groupings. Then, one can see examples of the mushrooms during its many distinctive stages.

Mushroom experts are quick to point out the importance of fungi to humans, for example, their relationship to the production of our food – for example, bread, cheese, and wine – as well as their critical ecological importance through the partnerships they form with other plants. For example, some fungi decompose organic material such as the lignin in wood.

Many species are cultivated or collected for their culinary uses, for example, the legendary chanterelle or morel mushrooms. However, you should never consume any species for which you do not have a positive, trusted, identification by an expert.

One of the Arboretum’s trails is named in memory of Dr. William C. (Bill) Cibula, who conducted well-attended field events in search of fungi in past years at the Crosby Arboretum. A research mycologist, Dr. Cibula performed groundbreaking work in mycorrhizal associations along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Dr. Cibula’s was also instrumental in forming the Gulf States Mycological Society and describing many new species of southern fungi.

Along the Cibula Trail, which is located on the west side of the North Savanna Trail, visitors will find interpretive signage that details a variety of mushroom and fungi topics. A trail leads from the Cibula Trail into the Swamp Forest Exhibit. Areas such as the stream channel at the center of the exhibit offer the moist conditions that promote the growth of fungi.

Mark your calendar for a children’s nature crafts workshop to be held Saturday, November 23 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., and a fall botany field walk the same day from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. that will explore the Swamp Forest Exhibit.  Learn about the native plant species that grow in this four-acre educational exhibit and enjoy taking a stroll along the 700’ Swamp Forest Trail that journeys northward to the gum pond.

Children will have a chance to enjoy a brand-new fun workshop, “Growing Microgreens” on Saturday, December 7, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith will teach the class how to grow microgreens and the benefits of eating them.  The process of photosynthesis will also be covered during this hands-on program, which contains several educational activities. 

All supplies for the workshop will be provided.  This is a free workshop for ages 8 to 18, but younger children may attend.  Children must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.  Please call to pre-register and reserve your child’s place.

On Saturday, December 7, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., a winter gallery exhibit opening featuring nature photography by Nadine Phillips will follow a short program with Nadine about the benefits of being connected to the natural world and her approach to crystalizing these moments in her photographic work. Light refreshments will be served. The program and gallery opening is free to all, and the exhibit will be on display through February 28.

A children’s holiday crafts workshop will be held on Saturday, December 14, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m., using natural materials to complete the craft project. As children must be accompanied by an adult, there is no minimum age requirement. Space is limited, reservations are requested. Members’ children $4; non-members’ children $6 (no charge for adults).

To sign up for programs, call 601-799-2311. For more information, please see our Facebook page or the program calendar on our website at The Crosby Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4, and open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 to 4:30. Leashed pets are always welcome!