You may have noticed more than the normal number of mushrooms popping up around Arkansas. That’s because the warm weather and several days of rain have made ripe conditions for mycelium—or fungi.
Mushrooms sprout out of very large and complex systems of small fibers in the soil, around trees and rotting logs, digesting matter in the environment and gaining energy.
When conditions are right, with enough moisture and warmth in the environment, mushrooms begin to fruit. Rain has been a constant since the previous weekend around central Arkansas. The National Weather Service reported a record amount of rainfall in Little Rock on Tuesday.
“The last few days have been a real bonanza for mushrooms and other kinds of fungal fruiting bodies just kind of erupting everywhere,” says Tim Jones of the Arkansas Mycological Society.
Jones likens (pun intended?) a mushroom to an apple on a tree, with a very large and complex organism sending up the means to distribute its spores and reproduce through the more visible and shapely fungi.
“They’re really happy right now,” Jones says.
He says some common mushroom types in Arkansas are Mycorrorhizal mushrooms—which sprout around trees, as well as the poisonous and chanterelles, which are connected to oak trees.
Mycorrorhizal mushrooms participate in a symbiotic relationship with trees and forests and are popping up in many wooded areas.
“Those relationships are persistent,” Jones says. “Those particular kinds of mushrooms are living along with the tree all the time. They’re important to the health of the tree. They’re important to the ecology and health of the forest.”
Another mushrooms type found in Arkansas is the Amanita bisporigera, also known as the destroying angel. Jones says the state is also seeing “a riot of chanterelles right now.” Those look like small bright orange squash blossoms. They usually can be found around oak trees.
“It’s very important ecologically that we have these organisms that will go and reduce the volume and break down organic matter. And basically that’s what’s going on when you see mushrooms popping up in your yard or in a flower bed or woodchips and landscaping area,” Jones says.
“There are many many different kinds. Most are not edible, most are not poisonous. They’re just not food.”
Chlorophyllum molybdites, also known as the green-spored parasol, is one variety popping up in yards and fields in Arkansas. It’s often mistaken for the edible agarius mushroom. People who eat the green-spored parasol may encounter projectile vomiting and diarrhea.
Although distinguishing between poisonous, non-edible and edible mushrooms can sometimes be a difficult art, Jones says there are actually plenty of edible varieties common to the state through the spring and summer. Those include morels, chanterelles, black trumpets, lion’s mane, hedgehogs and hen of the woods.
“There are sometimes toxic look-a likes to different kinds of mushrooms and sometimes different factors and considerations that you need to know about before you harvest something for the table,” Jones says.
He says folks can continue to see mushrooms sprouting for at least another week upon conclusion of the recent bout of rainfall. But he says the widest variety of mushrooms usually surface in the fall. Jones notes that August is typically one of the driest months of the year, so the recent days of rain have produced an atypical set of conditions for mycology enthusiasts.
“It’s been a pretty special year if this is your hobby,” he says.
The Arkansas Mycological Society gets together for regular outings in the woods on mushroom scavenger hunts. Learn more at the Arkansas Mushrooms Facebook page. The society is hosting a weekend mushroom workshop at Devil’s Den State Park on October 22nd and another event at Pinnacle Mountain State Park on November 5th.