13. Fungi

The family activity area and surrounding trails are home to a variety of fungi.  In addition to their symbiotic root mycorrhizal relationships, fungi are necessary to decompose dead organisms and transform nutrients into bioavailable (usable) building blocks taken up by surrounding plants— consider them the recyclers of the ecosystem. Mushrooms that grow by decomposing dead or dying material are called saprotrophic. Sometimes these saprobes can switch nutrient sources and become parasites on living trees. Terrestrial mushrooms are fleeting and may disappear a few days after emerging, while many stump and tree-based bracket or shelf fungi can last much longer. Visible mushrooms are just the reproductive structure of the often invisible mycelium, the stringy, rootlike network that lives underground, among decomposing leaves, inside logs, etc. Mushrooms are a favorite snack of chipmunks, who help with spore dispersal by stashing their feasts in hoards and burrows. Look for Turkey Tails, False Turkey Tails, and Coral Mushrooms around the family activity area.