Our MycoTopian Future: Mushroom’s Saving Grace

Jelly Fungus

I was taking a portrait of sorts in our back yard (such as it is–not a lawn by any means) when I looked up and was shocked by this splash of translucent color not three feet away. So when I was done with my primary objective (see those images tomorrow) I grabbed a shot of this a yellow “jelly fungus”.

Some of you may be more familiar with the tannish “tree ears” or black-brown “witches butter” sometimes found on fallen limbs (due to the fact that this fungus absorbs a lot of heavy water and often brings down the already-dying limb that this saprophyte infiltrates with its microscopically-thready filaments called “mycelium”.) And herein lies a tale.

And who better to tell it than Paul Stamets, myco-eccentric ecowarrier who has a vision for ways in which mushrooms are the path to our future.

Highly recommend: Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World, a 17 minute video and well worth your time. Stamets describes fungal mycelia’s role in bringing back old-growth forest, as an effective antimicrobial agent against bird flu and many other deadly diseases, as a universal insecticide (for termites and carpenter ants), for soaking up and neutralizing organic pollution and as a basis so much more logical for biofuels than the use of food crops or even grasses.

And many more articles by and about Stamets can be found at his web site, Fungi Perfecti. With numerous patents and publications and ongoing studies to his credit, he makes a big deal out of the kingdom Fungi because folks, this is kind of a big deal. It represents a new way of thinking about our future, and lord knows we could use some new ideas and soon.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. “Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World” is a bad link – it gives a 404 message.

    Reading through Fungi Perfecti was extremely interesting. I have Stamets’ book in my Amazon list – haven’t clicked on the “Order” button yet, though.

    So …….. question: is anyone in Floyd County doing anything with mushrooms? I spoke with Jagger Rutledge not long ago and he spoke of inoculating the chain saw oil with Shiitake mushroom spores – is anyone else doing anything with mushrooms in the area?