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What is a mushroom?

A mushroom (Agaricus Bisporus) is one of the many species of fungi. They have been given their own kingdom due to the sheer number of species that exist: ‘The Kingdom of Fungi’. A mushroom is actually the fruit of a much bigger fungus which grows under the ground. Mushrooms usually emerge out of the ground after heavy rain and when growing conditions are ideal (warm and humid). They’re typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. They’ll disappear as fast as they appear. Mushrooms will spread their spores and then go away when the sun comes out and the soil dries up. Mushrooms start off as white fluff underground. This is called mycelium; the fungal threads that sprout the mushrooms.  In the wild, mycelium can stay underground for a very long time. If the conditions are right (humidity, food and temperature) nubs will form. This is the birth of a mushroom. The small, normally white ball will quickly grow into a proper mushroom. The cap will open and will start dropping millions of spores (miniscule seeds). These seeds are spread by the wind, animals, etc which end up on the ground and start forming another mycelium. Many people believe mushrooms are a vegetable, but that is not the case. All fruits and vegetables come from edible plants which contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is used to convert energy from sunlight into carbohydrates. However, mushrooms contain no chlorophyll which means they can not photosynthesize. Mushrooms ‘steal’ the carbohydrates they need from plants.  

Are mushrooms safe?
Despite any horror stories you may have heard, most lawn mushrooms are completely harmless. Now that doesn’t mean that you should be eating mushrooms you pick from your lawn, but your pet should be fine if they eat one. Poisonous mushrooms rarely grow in residential yards, but when they do there are some easy noticeable ways to recognize them:

  • Underneath the cap of the mushroom is white not brown
  • It smells unpleasant / weird
  • There is a ring around the stem of the mushroom
  • There is red on the cap or stem 

Even if the mushroom doesn’t fit any of the criteria above, if you or a loved one comes in contact with one and starts showing unusual symptoms, you should contact poison control at 800-222-1222. 

This is an image of a moral mushroom

Are mushrooms beneficial?
Based on their relationship with the plants, fungi can be roughly divided into three categories:

  • Parasites – Mushroom parasites grow on living trees and other plants, extracting their nutrients. They are also called “The Murderers” among the mycologists. Once the tree or bush has died, the dead matter is cleaned up by the saprophytes.
  • Saprophytes – Saprophytes grow on dead organic matter such as wood, fallen leaves and plant roots. They then extract carbon dioxide and minerals from it. This category includes many gourmet and medicinal types of mushrooms such as crimini, white button, shiitake and oyster mushrooms.
  • Mycorrhiza – Mycorrhiza forms a symbiotic association with the roots of living trees. They take sugars and nutrients from the tree, but they give back minerals and essential elements, enlarging the trees root system. Mushrooms that belong to this group are difficult to cultivate and are often found only in nature. Some examples would be chanterelles, porcini mushrooms, and truffles.  

Mushrooms on my lawn
Now, while most mushrooms won’t harm your family, what about your lawn? Remember, mushrooms will grow on their food source. So, if you spot some mushrooms in your lawn there is a good chance you have some decaying tree roots, wood, tree leaves, bark in the soil or other decaying matter… This is good news.  Mushrooms in your lawn means there is beneficial microbial activity occurring in your soil. Microbial activity is very important to several soil reactions and functions like: 

  • Organic matter decomposition
  • Stabilization
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Aggregate formation
  • Humus formation

“Because of the health benefits they provide to your soil, you are never going to want to completely get rid of mushrooms.”

How to regulate mushrooms on my lawn?
Mushrooms are a good sign of healthy conditions.  Because of the health benefits they provide to your soil, you are never going to want to completely get rid of mushrooms. You can however reduce the number of mushrooms you have in your lawn by introducing more “leafy” material to the soil like mulching your grass clippings. Too much water in the right conditions (warm and humid) can cause your lawn to grow mushrooms. Be sure to leave ample time for your lawn to dry between waterings. Another example would be to make sure you are getting the right amount of fertilizer. Here at My Fertilizing Company, we offer treatment programs for soil health to make sure your lawn is getting the nutrients it needs all summer long. 

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