Natural Sightings #574 - Purple Mushroom.jpg

A purplish mushroom on the Sycamore Ridge trail.

Toshimi Kristof took this photo in Bear Valley Springs of a purplish mushroom that she and her husband Les discovered while hiking on the Sycamore Ridge trail. It appears to be a type of fungi known as a Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda).

While many fungi have the stalk and circular cap of a typical mushroom, and appear to be complete little plants with their roots underground, this appearance is deceiving. I like to think of it like this: mushrooms are not like tiny apple trees, mushrooms are the apples and the tree itself is underground.

Mushrooms are the spore-producing, fruiting bodies of fungi that live in the soil. Most of a fungi consists of the mycelium, the cluster of thread-like hyphae that remain hidden underground.

When conditions are right, generally just after a rain, if it isn't too hot, cold, or windy, fungi produce mushrooms, which typically push their way to the surface, drop their spores to create future generations of fungi, and then fade away in a few days.

This need for ideal conditions is the main reason that there aren't more mushrooms in the Tehachapi Mountains. Fungi tend to like moisture and prolonged cool to warm temperatures, and much of our precipitation falls when it's too cold for mushrooms. Then when the temperatures warm up, the ground dries out too fast.

There are numerous species of fungi living underground in the Tehachapi Mountains, but there aren't that many days in a typical year when you can discover the above-ground mushrooms.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) Indian people harvested a few species of mushroom, particularly the common Meadow Mushroom (Agaricus campestris), and the word for mushroom is hiitope, pronounced hee-tope.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.