With the extremely wet weather we have been experiencing in Chicago mushrooms are popping up in lawns all over the neighborhood. Mushrooms, oftentimes called toadstools, are the reproductive parts of some kinds of fungi. Mushrooms found in lawns seem to illicit a strange reaction. I’ve observed people plucking them from lawns wearing gloves or keeping a distance by using a broom handle and catapulting them out onto sidewalks. They illicit fear when children or pets can come into contact with them and gross many people out. I guess when you realize that a mushroom is just a Ding Dong or Hoohah of some kind of fungi living in the dirt, they can seem kind of gross.
When I was a kid mushrooms were blamed for causing warts on the fingers of kids who didn’t listen to their mother and touched one growing in a lawn. I just tried to Google to see if there was any legitimacy to this old wive’s tale or to see how widespread it was and after wading through countless results about STDs I’ve given up. I’m not too worried though, since I don’t make it a habit of touching Ding Dongs and Hoohahs growing out of the lawn anyway.
Where was I? Oh, yeah.
Since mushrooms are really just the reproductive parts of fungi removing them does not kill the underground mycelia that they grow from. Most spores are dispersed by wind over long distances into new sites where they germinate if conditions are favorable. So, you can pluck or fling every mushroom off your lawn but that doesn’t mean they won’t come back at some point.
If you live in the swanky new developments around Chicago and find that you’ve got mushrooms in your perfect lawn it could be growing from construction lumber, dead tree roots, or other organic mater that was just sodded over. You’ll need to dig up whatever is decomposing below to have a good chance of getting rid of the mushrooms. Although, the fungi that generally produces mushrooms in lawns are really beneficial because they are decomposing the organic matter in the soil.
In older gardens and lawns, mushrooms can be a sign of over-watering (or too much rain) and poor drainage. You can buy shoes that look like Medieval cleats that are you walk on your lawn with or amend your soil with a soil conditioner like Turface or applying fertilizer high in nitrogen.
Note: Some mushrooms can be poisonous so don’t eat any you come across growing wild, mushrooms on your pizza can be assumed to be safe to eat.