Take a moment to be awed when you spot a mushroom popping up through the ground. No mushroom is an island. What you are actually looking at is the reproductive structure of a complex, magical organism called Mycelium that is found underneath the grass that you and the mushroom stand on. You are facing the next generation of a superpower whose handiwork is intertwined with the fate of millions of life-forms. Mycelium (and their mushrooms) are there at every stage of an animal or plant’s lifecycle – from birth to death, and so on. Here are some inspiring habits of nature’s recycling squad:
~Mushrooms are the guardians of the forests. Their role in the decomposition and rebuilding of life forms, manifested in partnerships with creatures of all sizes and kinds (such as helping snails digest their dinners), make them the overseers of the forest’s well-being. Some say they can even help prevent forest fires.
~Studies on mushrooms indicate promising medicinal benefits for us humans, including antibiotics, anticancer, antioxidant, and stress reducing properties. The Reishi/Ling Chi species is also antiviral, anti tumor, and promotes cardiovascular, immunity, and liver health, amongst other virtues.
~Certain species of mushrooms are so powerful that they can break down toxic wastes. Researchers implanted mushrooms on piles of soil contaminated by diesel and watched as the mushrooms were able to find nutrition in the chemicals, ultimately transforming the lifeless pile into healthy soil. That goes for toxic spills and radiation-ridden lands, too…so resourceful!!
~Some mushrooms can be natural alternatives to chemical pesticides that threaten the quality of our foods and the delicate balance of insect ecosystems. Rather than using harsh chemicals, farmers and individuals can use mushrooms to control pests and insects in a safer and less harmful way to us all.
~Mushrooms can be cultivated in the craziest places. We all know about those that grow on cow manure, but also straw, logs, tree stumps, hemp rope, hats, clothing, buckets, cardboard, your own backyard, and yes, nuclear waste sites. They are the ultimate optimists, taking the best from whatever situation they are in.
~They form “Fairy rings” – naturally occurring arcs or rings of mushrooms that appear on grasses and in fields. In European folklore, these are the gateways to fairy realms and the indicator that an elf or fairy has stopped by. These beautiful rings form when underground webs of mycelium grow in an outward direction. The mushrooms pop up along this circle, outlining the presence of the complex system working just below the surface.
~There are over 10,000 known species of mushrooms!! Each type is unique and many are amazingly bizarre in appearance. Some glow in the dark (mycena chlorophos), some are tiny (flammulina velutipes), some are as big as a tree, some grow underwater, and some are as hard as rocks. They are all beautiful.