Mushroom’s Influence on Rain

October 29, 2015

king bolete mushroomBright and breezy this Thursday afternoon on California’s north coast — feels a bit cooler outside as the autumn season continues to shift right along.
Rain supposedly Sunday and maybe on into Monday, though appears another short-lived front, so not much on the totals.

Rain is part of the natural flow, of course, created from a shitload of different climate variables all coming together to form a major component of the water cycle.

A surprise element in rain production is odd as it’s crazy — mushrooms.

(Illustration: ‘King Bolete,’ or  ‘Boletus edulis,’ mushroom, by Bev Mazurick, found here).

Our environment is a fascinating piece of work. Functions as if a well-oiled machine, with tiny, incredible little parts adding to the whole — now seemingly one of those parts involve mushrooms promoting rain.
Fascinating, and way-unknown to me until I spied a piece at Discovery News yesterday — new research on influence of the mushroom, and a ‘newly-discovered’ feedback system:

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, documents a previously unknown feedback system whereby rain stimulates mushroom growth, and then the fully fruited mushrooms release spores that could result in later rain.
“We can watch big water droplets grow as vapor condenses on (the mushroom spore’s) surface,” said senior author Nicholas Money of Miami University’s Biology Department.
“Nothing else works like this in nature.”

Lead author Maribeth Hassett, Money and co-author Mark Fischer determined that spores from certain mushrooms and other fungi are probably even more potent rainmakers — and they’re not pollutants.
Prior research conducted by Reginald Buller, whom Money refers to as the “Einstein of Mycology,” found that mushroom spores are discharged from their gills by the rapid displacement of fluid on cell surfaces and stimulation from the mushroom’s production of sugars, such as mannitol.
A catapult mechanism shoots the moisture-laden spores into the air, where the liquid evaporates.

The effect is likely dramatic over rainforests that support very large populations of mushrooms and other fungi.
It also could be significant during warmer months of the year above vast northern hemisphere boreal forests.
Any fungi that release their spores via a catapult mechanism can attract moisture, resulting in possible rainclouds, according to the scientists.

Alas, however, mankind hampers the mushroom effect:

“Wild porcini, for example, has spores of this kind; oyster mushrooms too,” Money said.
“Sixteen thousand species of mushrooms can do the same trick, so the most abundant species of fungi are likely to have the greatest effect upon cloud formation.”
Money, who is the author of the book “Mushroom,” does not advise growing a bunch of mushrooms to relieve drought conditions.
“Nature works very well when we leave her alone,” he said.
“The problems start when we cut down too many trees, burn fossil fuels, and keep multiplying as if there are no limits to human population.”

Incredible the natural world.

Some background to the mushroom pictured in the artwork above (via eHow):

There is no mushroom that gets bigger in size then the king bolete.
This mushroom achieves a size no other Humboldt County edible mushroom can achieve and is the easiest edible mushroom to identify.
The Boletus edulius, also known as a porcini in Italy, a cep in France and stinpilz in Germany, has more than 20 species.
Reported measurements have recorded sizes up to 12 inches by 12 inches and they can weigh as much as 4 lbs. each.
The drawback of the king bolete is that, many times, when a mushroom has grown to a large size, it is usually claimed by worms, which is why many people opt for smaller boletes found around the kings in the wild.

Worm… and spores hurled-aloft by tiny, way-dinky catapults…

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