Ectomycorrhizal fungi (EcM)
Some residents have recently discovered bleached patches of matter with all the appearance of snow, but none of the negative or positive side effects.
Ectomycorrhizal fungi (EcM) has suddenly appeared in clumps reminiscent of a snowfall’s last remains as it melts into oblivion. Weather conditions heavily influence the appearance of these sometimes large fungi.
This EcM fungi is quite common in disturbed soils which are near trees, especially oaks and pecans. Spores left long ago are exposed to growing conditions which promote its occasional return.
Its family members include the haute-cuisine morel mushrooms and truffles which are so highly prized by gourmets everywhere.
It has been estimated this fungi’s family has 20,000 to 25,000 members worldwide. It is extremely challenging for specialist to identify these fungi individually by their form and shape. Proper identification requires a rigorous methods and specialized tools.
EcM fungi play an important role for common plants containing chlorophyll, the chemical which keeps them green. This fungus is credited with improving nutrient availability by hosting bacteria which processes unavailable compounds into usable plant food.
They are also thought to mediate drought effects and enhancing seedling establishment by symbiotic bacterial activity.
Some EcM fungi have an affinity for mineral soils or alkaline soils, those with a pH over seven. Some soils in southern Wakulla County are alkaline and excellent candidates for growth of EcM fungi.
This fungi family uses a variety of techniques to become established in new areas. The fruiting structures may appear in several locations on the fungi, each having a unique advantage for distributing the spores.
Some spores are distributed from above ground structures which may utilize the wind or animals as a means of spreading. Below ground structures require animals to disturb and distribute the spores on their fur or feathers.
Research on this family is ongoing and much is yet to be learned. Genetic analysis holds the potential for many useful applications.
To learn more about EcM fungi in Wakulla County, contact your UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/wakullaco/