Curiosity prevails about kinds of animals and plants at Northwoods. This time of year, the fungi are especially good at demanding our attention. Friday, they had us asking, “Whoah! What’s that smell?”
Throughout the summer we watched this mushroom as it slowly spiraled toward the sky. “What an interesting structure!” we thought. We wished it would grow faster, but, each day it was just a tiny bit bigger.
Over by the Lamb’s Ears, there were some bracket fungi. We thought maybe they were attached underground to some old sycamore tree roots. They felt dry and flaky.
Once we started looking for them, we could find mushrooms, especially at the base of old trees.
We’re used to mushrooms taking a little while to progress from the button stage to a large fruiting body with gills for spores underneath. We left these buttons a parent had brought in for our examination in Elementary Thursday in cozy little nests of dark forest-floor humus.
Imagine our surprise when we opened the door on Friday morning to a fetid smell and the sight of a few flies happily escaping with mushroom spores on their feet! Yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk! Our whole building smelled terrible!
So, we quickly put the plastic bottle halves back on top of each container and observed our Stinkhorn Fungi through them. Stinkhorns sure grow fast!
With the Stinkhorns safely encapsulated, our building became habitable and we began to notice that we still had a button or two to watch. This was a topic of intense interest all day. We learned that different insect helpers like different scents. Whew! The relationships between fungi and insects can be complicated, as are the relationships between plants and their insect pollinators. Is it worth it? Ask the Stinkhorns!
As for us, there is a renewed appreciation for the ceramic mushrooms adorning this Primary class garden. They don’t smell good, but then. . . .they don’t stink, either!