What kind of mushroom is that?

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 9:00am

People were skeptical — how are you going to find a mushroom in December? But upwards of two dozen people, ranging in ages from four to 87, showed up on a cold Saturday, Dec. 7 to find out.

Mycologist Lawrence Millman, hosted by Kim Gaffett and the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, led a walk through the Boy Scout Camp at the end of Connecticut Avenue in search of what turned out to be not-so-elusive fungi.

There are two types of fungi, Millman told the crowd: those that disperse their spores downwards, such as the toadstool and button type mushrooms, typically found during September and October, and those that disperse their spores upwards, from a shallow cup-like structure attached to a log. It was the latter we were after, although one of the former type was found.

Once in the woods of the camp, plenty of examples were found. There were tiny fungi that looked like mere black specks attached to logs, and larger ones more obvious to the eye. There were even fungi on the bottom of a plank from a wooden picnic table.

Millman explained the symbiotic relationship between the fungi and the wood they were found on. Most are very species specific, and even Millman was stumped by what exactly was present on the shad wood. (This may be because the type of shad found on Block Island is genetically different than that found on the mainland.) He collected samples to take home for identification and told the crowd he hoped to do an inventory of fungi on Block Island during the next year.

Why are mushrooms sometimes slimy? Fun fact: mushrooms can make their own anti-freeze to protect them from the cold.

Fungi weren’t the only things found at the Boy Scout Camp. While it’s generally believed that there aren’t oak trees on Block Island, three types were found at the camp. One was a pin oak, one was red, and one was most likely a Burr oak, all identified by a few dried leaves still clinging to the branches.