‘Like a pack of teenagers’: Manitoba mushroom explosion fueled by amorous fungi, expert says

The heavy rains that followed a hot and dry summer have left lawns and boulevards filled with something Manitobans haven’t seen much of this year — mushrooms.

And while the influx of fungi might be interesting to look at, the truth is you may want to give them a little bit of privacy.

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That’s because the mushrooms are apparently, well, getting it on.

“What we’re seeing is the fruiting body, or in effect, the sexual structures of the fungi that show up above ground as mushrooms or mushroom-like bodies,” explains Dr. Mario Tenuta, a professor of applied soil ecology at the University of Manitoba.

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“There’s been an absence of them because it’s been so dry and all of a sudden now with the rain, you know, all of a sudden they’ve appeared.

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“And they’re like a pack of teenagers, going at it.”

Tenuta explains the vast majority of the mushroom’s bodies are actually under the soil, feeding on organic material like roots, tree stumps, thatch, or dead and decaying matter.

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While Tenuta says the fungus’ more intimate moments happen underground, the structures we see sprouting out of the soil or off the side of trees produce spores — microscopic particles that act like seeds — that get dispersed into the world to reproduce.

Tenuta says it’s common for mushrooms to sprout in the fall, and while he can’t say for sure whether or not we’re seeing more this time around, he says the influx of water Manitoba has seen in the last two weeks has been a boon for the amorous fungi.

It’s also been a boon for members of Manitoba’s “shrooming” community, like Shel Zolkewich.

Self-described “shroomer” Shel Zolkewich holds up a boletus mushroom. Shel Zolkewich/Facebook

Zolkewich, a writer and self-described outdoors enthusiast, says before the rains came she was starting to worry she wouldn’t see any mushrooms this year.

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“But in the last five to six days, it’s been like I’ve never seen it before,” said Zolkewich, who lives in Meleb, a community roughly 94 kms north of Winnipeg known as the mushroom capital of Manitoba.

“Now when I go for a walk in the bush, it’s almost like you can’t take a step without stepping on something, including new species that I haven’t seen here before, which is all very exciting for people who follow mushrooms.”

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Zolkewich says you don’t have to be in the province’s mushroom capital to see some pretty cool mushrooms this time of year.

For those in Winnipeg, she advises checking out Assiniboine Forest and city parks, or just keeping an eye on lawns and boulevards.

But to those contemplating making a meal out of the mushrooms sprouting up around the province, both Zolkewich Tenuta advise extreme caution.

Another patch of mushrooms. Shel Zolkewich/Facebook

While a few of the mushrooms popping up on lawns are edible, many are not, they say, and even after decades of learning about mushrooms, Zolkewich says there’s only a handful she feels confident frying up in a pan with butter and garlic.

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“We all know that mushrooms can do nasty things to you. So you really have to know your mushrooms and it takes a lifetime to understand and to know what you’re picking,” she said.

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“There are such variations and subtle differences between what could be tasty and what could be toxic.

“So do some research and get a few years under your belt before you start putting them on your plate.”

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