August General Meeting Speaker: Taylor Bright on The Wonderful World of Fungi

Taylor Bright speaking about mushrooms

Taylor speaks as the voice of the fungi. She moved here 2-1/2 years ago and has enjoyed being in this location where there is a well-established mushroom community. Our August Potluck Meeting audience was fascinated with her display of items made from mushrooms and books about fungi and her talk about the vast array of uses and benefits of mushrooms. Here are some highlights:
General Information
  • 120,000 species of fungi have been described.
  • 5.1 million species of fungi exist on planet Earth and have not all been identified.
  • There are 3 main categories of fungi—yeasts which give rise to fermentation, molds which are decomposers and give us antibiotics, and mushrooms which have endless and fantastical forms and applications.
  • They are ancient life forms that eat dead and decaying things (saprophytes) and help break down minerals into the soil.
Mushroom information
  • Mycelium or the mycelial web is where the mushroom feeds and gets water.
  • The mushroom is the fruiting part of the fungal body.
  • They are delicious, nutritious, and sustainable as a source of antioxidants and contain the 8 essential amino acids.
  • Mushroom synthesize Vitamin D from sunlight and then pass that on to us.
  • They are abundant in nature, but before foraging in the wild, be sure to “know before you go” and go with someone who has knowledge.
Soil Building
  • Fungi help build soil by mining layers of bedrock and producing glomalin to keep soil together.
  • There is a symbiotic relationship with plant roots—fungi give nutrients and water and plants give photosynthetic sugars.
  • Because they are increasing the nutrients in soil, they are increasing the nutrients in the plants.
  • Current thinking about building good soil goes with the non-disturbance principle or “no till” theory. The idea is that if we leave this subterranean layer alone, then the mycelia can continue to do the work of breaking down nutrients and keep everything functioning in symbiosis.
Applications with environmental problems
  • Fungi are able to remove toxins and poisons from the environment and have been used to clean up PCB’s and petrochemicals.
  • They are able to bio-digest the petrochemicals and accumulate heavy metals.
  • Paul Stamets has been doing successful work with oil cleanup.
  • Plastic waste as a huge problem and there is a mushroom that can survive on polyurethane. This proves that there is potential for this problem.
  • Bee populations are declining because of pesticides and are affecting their immune systems and disease like deformed wing virus. Paul Stamets is putting medicinal mushrooms into beehives to help the colony with their immune systems and hopefully have some mitigating effects.
  • Mycelium forms can act as filters to digest pollutants.
  • Eco-innovators are using “waste” that can be grown with fungi into different products like furniture. MycoWorks is a company exploring this.
  • Myco art using myco pigmentation is available by making ink from shaggy mane mushrooms (Coprinus comatus), and also paper and “leather” can be made from mushrooms.
  • Mushrooms have healed people for centuries throughout many cultures and can help our immune system.
  • Lion’s Mane helps promote the regeneration with neural functioning.
  • Entheogen literally means to generate the divine within.
  • Psychedelic mushrooms are starting to be used again in clinical settings for PTSD, OCD, and ADHD.
  •  It is time for us to learn from this amazing life form during this important time.
  • Mycelium Mass classes from Bay Area Applied Mycology (BAAM)
  • Wild about Mushrooms (WAM)

Notes by Carol Henderson

All about mushrooms by Taylor Bright.