Shroom Surprise

Living in a semi-arid dessert leaves little room to find mushrooms growing anywhere in the garden. We drip feed most of our plants, so the watering that we do is directed and no water wasted. Top that off with our watershed experiencing a level 1-2 drought, it makes for a big surprise to be finding mushrooms!

Yesterday, as Kurt and I were doing our nightly walk about the garden, checking in on the plants, I decided we needed to add more straw and soil to 2 of our potato towers. After topping them up, I decided to poke around the middle one a little bit as I haven’t seen the plant surface since the last top up of straw. After removing the top layer to straw, I received quite the surprise. Low and behold, the top right corner of the tower had a patch of funny looking mushrooms growing in the layer of soil. I have never seen mushrooms in our potatoes before so it was a little surprising to see. I decided not to do anything with them without first figuring out if they were friend or foe to the garden.

I took a few photos with the intention of checking good ol’ google to see if I could figure out what kind of mushroom they are. They are a very opaque white, shaped like a cup and although they look like they would be soft and gooey, they are actually hard and somewhat brittle. I forgot to check google when I went inside. Surprise surprise. Later, I was looking through a Facebook gardening group and noticed that a few people were posting about mushrooms in their gardens, especially around their potatoes. Interesting. The photos that they were posting didn’t look like the ones that we had, but still interesting that others were having the same surprise popping up.

Then I remembered that I wanted to google the ones that we have. So in a very scientific and professional manner, I took to google and typed “cup shaped mushroom”. Guess what? It worked! Rarely do those type of descriptive searches work for me, but I know nothing about mushrooms and didn’t event know where to start with searching. Turns out we have a Peziza or cup fungus. Now, I am a bit of a geek and wanted to know what kind of Peziza fungus we had, and based on photos and descriptions, I believe we have Peziza Vesiculosa. At first I thought it might be Peziza Repanda as they are very close in look, however when I read the descriptions for the growing conditions, it seems more likely that it is Peziza Vesiculosa. To be honest though, it could be either, just the photos of Vesiculosa matched more closely with what I see in our garden. Very distinct cup shape versus a cup-like wavy fungus.

Now, the kicker is that Peziza Vesiculosa is poisonous, whereas Peziza Repanda is not, though not often eaten due to lack of flavour. Either way, we hadn’t planned on eating them since I really don’t like the taste of mushrooms. Kurt doesn’t mind mushrooms, but it is one type of vegetable that I wouldn’t want to eat unless we were 100% sure what it was. I mostly wanted to know if it was going to affect our potatoes. From what I have read, they will not affect the growth of our potatoes, however I cannot find anything about the safety of the potatoes for eating if they have been growing with these mushrooms. To be safe, we won’t be eating any of the potatoes from that tower. I would be surprised if we get any potatoes anyways, considering I could only find one little stem with leaves growing up the wall opposite the fungus.

Peziza Vesiculosa grows in either horse manure, which we don’t have in our yard, or decaying straw, which the potato towers definitely have. We use straw and soil layers for our potato towers, so it seemed correct that it would be Peziza Vesiculosa. Peziza Repanda generally grows on rotted wood or wood chips, which we don’t have in the potato towers, though have been known to be found in straw as well. The soil that I was using to fill the towers is the sifted soil from our dirt mound that has been composting juniper needles since we cleared the yard. After sifting, it was a light, airy soil. Not sandy, but definitely not as dense as a good compost soil.

After clearing some of the out of control weeds (its been unbearably hot resulting in no weeding or week whacking for longer than we usually let it go) from around the towers, I noticed another fungus growing on the outside of one of the towers. This one more closely resembled an “ear fungus mushroom”, which takes the shape of an ear. I couldn’t determine what kind it would be, but certainly matched a lot of the characteristics. I did break it off to take a look at what the underside looked like. As you can see below, it is also quite hollow, but if you look at where it was coming out of the bottom of the box, it would have looked a bit like an ear.

Clearly, I was now on the lookout for mushrooms in the yard and low and behold, I found more. These ones were found in the grassy upper area of the yard and are a traditional looking toadstool mushroom. They are quite common in grass, however I still am not expecting mushrooms. They generally like a lot of moisture, and that is something we have been greatly lacking here. I guess we will see if more come, or if these were a couple of little anomalies.

Such an odd year with heat and droughts and now mushrooms.


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