Fairy Rings and Harvesting of Mushrooms

Basidium basidium at aol.com
Mon Dec 30 15:27:48 EST 1996

WOW... Michael... I think you owe the very erudite Mr. Moselio Schaechter
an apology here! And, just to clarify, while I appreciate the thought, I
am not a professor.

Krieger's ideas on the role of the newly released spores vs. the expanding
mycelium in the growth of the fairy ring were posed as hypotheses, not as
facts. Remember also that spores have so little mass that the slightest
breeze tends to disperse them quite a distance from the fruiting body that
produced them, and that the release of spores from a basidium is a result
of their cellular maturity, not of the gills being "stretched."

There is a strong concensus that the fairy-ring phenomenon is by and large
one of a single mycelium (a single *individual* organism) growing outward
from an original point of dikaryon formation. A thriving dikaryotic
mycelium is generally very effective at inhibiting the growth of a new
(competing) mycelium which tries to establish itself in close proximity,
as can be easily demonstrated in culture.

Now I shall come to your aid.

It is typical in a large lawn to observe numerous fairy rings of
_Marasmius_ _oreades_ of various sizes. It is reasonable to presume that
that the spores produced by basidiocarps of the "original" mycelium on
that lawn germinated into additional mycelia, evidence of the importance
of spore production and the wisdom in Michael's feeling that it makes
sense to delay harvesting until after the fruiting bodies have released

My opinion is that there is always value in allowing a living thing to
fulfill its function---in the case of a mushroom, that means allowing it
to produce spores before harvesting it. The relative ecological importance
of this may be answered by two questions: "what percentage of the total
spore-production potential is interrupted?" and "how common is the

I do not like to pick a species that is rare in my region, whether for
consumption or for the herbarium, unless it has released the bulk of its
spores. A good example of this might be _Spathularia_ spp. Neither do I
like the idea of a single species, however common or abundant, being
picked so voraciously that the total spore release to the environment is
diminished. As has been stated before by many people, correctly I think,
evaluating the impact of such mass harvesting cannot be measured in less
than hundreds of years.

But it seems logical to me that The Creator has plans for her fungal
children's spores.

David W. Fischer
Co-author, "Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America" and "Mushrooms of
Northeastern North America"

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