Myconeer.com is a site for showcasing what I find out in the bush via macro photography and nature writing paired with whatever information (if any) I find online - to make sense of how fungi play into the wider scheme of the natural world.
Posts either feature species found, or highlight a region, a national park, or a specific trail during a particular time and what was discovered.
This blog aims to inspire other fungi hobbyists, amateur (or expert) mycologists to add to, and share (sporulate) the knowledge of fungi to uncover and get a closer look at the magic of kingdom fungi.
“Hey Joe, is everything alright? Are you OK? Are you eating all of these!?” Some friends voice concerns for my well-being after a bombardment of hundreds of strange and unique mushroom photos are posted online. Others offer words of encouragement and are genuinely interested.
The two reactions are typical in the world of fungi - one for concern and one for amazement or piqued curiosity. Mushrooms are both magnificent and menacing, unique and cause for uncertainty. They offer myriad health benefits, but eat the wrong one and they’ll cause illness, and sometimes even death. The spectrum of uncertainty, and polar opposite outcomes (life and death) fosters a fear of mushrooms.
Historically, there have been two camps: team mycophile and team mycophobe. A culture that has a love for fungi, and one that has a fear of them. Fungi stay hidden in dark, damp, and sometimes precarious places; unlike plants that flower out in the open and appear more inviting and joyful. Fungi are viewed by Western cultures as more sinister, illusive, and dangerous; appearing in children’s fables as poisonous toadstools used in concoctions brewed by evil witches. Fungi are a wrongfully classified kingdom. A forgotten kingdom that is often confused with plants, when fungi are actually more closely related to animals and humans.
Mushroom foraging can be off-putting and seems daunting given how much is still unknown. There are an estimated 4 to 5 million fungi species on this planet, yet only 250,000 have been identified. There’s a huge void and still so much to learn. This great void, this blackhole, is one of the alluring aspects of going out on snail-paced fungal forays.
Spending more time in the bush, you become aware of macro worlds that are often overlooked. It’s the little things in life that matter.
I’m surrounded by native New Zealand bush, crouched down on all fours, inspecting a mushroom growing at the base of a fern. A new mushroom to me, as is the case nearly every time when out on a foray. I knew almost nothing when I first started mushroom hunting.
After a couple of years, I’m content with the fact that I will barely scratch the surface in my lifetime. In New Zealand alone, there is an estimated 25K species with only 7-8K having been identified. Flora and fauna are always used together, yet the third “F” – fungi, always seems illusive.
But without fungi there is no flora, no fauna, no forest.
The Earth’s nervous system and brain, fungi also create channels of decay that builds on death. A person has only to look closely, to see that dead logs are actually teeming with life. Hyphae channels decay and builds on death. A gatekeeper between two modes of being, fungi break down and eat the understory, producing a fruiting body, a dazzling display of life borne of decomposition.
Trees are supplied with minerals from fungi that mine stone. They hunt springtails and other insects which are then used to feed their hosts. Trees store sugar in the synapses of fungi which are used to dole out to the shaded, wounded, or sick. A forest builds the local climate required to survive and takes care of itself.
Forests form themselves through subterranean synapses. There are no separable events or individuals. As forests mend and shape themselves, tens of thousands of other creatures are linked and formed within. There is more than meets the eye, and underneath, a story is told that dates back hundreds of millions of years. What secrets these old growth forests keep; there is much we still have yet to uncover.
We are just now learning to see the enormous spreading and branching of underground super-trees. Smart mats of mycorrhizal cable link together tree roots in gigantic, sprawling communities that are spread out over hundreds of acres. Vast networks of goods, services, and information is shared – the wood wide web.
Miles upon miles of fungal hyphae filaments fill the soil we live on. These filaments tap into tree roots, wired-up fungi feed the tree minerals. The tree feeds the fungi nutrients with sugars the fungi can’t make on their own. A symbiotic relationship with a partnership so tight that the infusion of fungi to root makes it hard to tell where one organism ends and the other begins.
Understanding that a forest is a culmination of miraculous symbiotic processes; and that there is more going on beneath our feet we’re finally starting to tap into – the mushroom community is expanding, connecting, and sharing knowledge on a different kind of mycelial network – the online realm.
I urge those who enjoy the outdoors and natural environment to slow down, and observe closely, as you may never know what you may find. It could very well be a new species to science! Upload your photos to sites like Mushroom Observer and iNaturalist or share on your local FB mushroom ID group (if there isn't one, start one!).