I'd never seen a polka-dotted mushroom before.
But the other night, in my backyard, there it was. Off in a corner of the yard, in the bushes and hidden under some grass.
A polka-dotted mushroom.
I admit, I'm fascinated how these things can pop up almost overnight through whatever secret underground network of tunnels that must connect them.
And every time I see one, I'm reminded of what the great Lewis Grizzard used to say about them, whenever he visited a fancy-dan restaurant whose cheeseburgers came with sauteed mushrooms.
"Do you know what these things really are?" he'd asked a bufuddled waiter. "They're TOADSTOOLS! Frogs go to the bathroom underneath these things!"
My colleague, Stone Mountain Patch Editor Leslie Johnson, asked Averil Bonsall, Georgia Extension Master Gardener in DeKalb and the main contact for information about the Stone Mountain Community Garden, for details on these things and how to properly get rid of them.
She explained that "some mushrooms are highly toxic, many are marginally so, and some are not poisonous at all. However, it is always wise to assume that they are dangerous – especially to children. They should never be eaten – or even tasted. Generally, individual people and agencies will not positively identify a mushroom because of liability issues."
Here's more information from Bonsall about mushrooms:
Patch: Why do they grow in our yards in the first place?
Bonsall: Mushrooms are the fruiting (spore-producing) structures of fungi that grow in our yards – gardens and lawns – and there are many different kinds.
Fungi grow as extensive fine thread-like structures on all organic matter. They are decay organisms – living on the organic matter in soil and compost, lawn thatch, mulch, piles of leaves and logs, dead/decaying wood – including decaying tree roots. This is their food source. Normally you don’t see them, although you sometimes see the decay they cause, but when conditions are suitable for them to reproduce – usually wet and warm – they produce the spore-bearing structures that we call mushrooms.
Patch: What is the proper way to get rid of them?
Bonsall: The way to get rid of mushrooms is to brush them off a lawn, or, wearing gloves, pick them off the garden and bag them up. Although many mushrooms are not poisonous, it pays to be cautious! They will return again and again when conditions are right, and mechanical removal is the only way to get rid of them.
To remove them permanently, you would need to remove all the organic matter – which is easy with a pile of leaves or logs, but not with your garden soil! You can make sure you use fully broken-down compost, and fresh mulch – this will reduce the fungi growing in your garden – but won’t eliminate them.
Patch: What should we not do when getting rid of them?
Bonsall: The best way to deal with mushrooms is to assume they are poisonous. So you should not handle them without gloves, sniff them, taste them, or even think of eating them!
You may also enjoy reading: