Mycology for Kids- Part 1

News Article

During mid-April, our Diagnostician Lina was interviewed by a young gentleman for his school project. He wanted to learn about Mushrooms, mushroom identification, Mycology and meet with the diagnostician to understand what she does at the Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic 

This video is part of a series of videos from that interview. We discussed how do we identify mushroom in the clinic, and how the clinic helps train Iowa citizens to recognize true morel mushrooms, avoid false morels and be certified to sell true morel in the state of Iowa legally.  

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My name is Lina Rodriguez-Salamanca.  I am a diagnostician with the plant and insect diagnostic clinic.  My role, I work a lot on the plant problem diagnosis.  Meaning I investigate what is wrong with the plants sent to our clinic.  I’m a microbiologist, and one of my interests is identifying mushrooms.  So even though I’m not a mycologist, I’m a plant pathologist with a heavy interest in mycology.   

Mycology is the study of fungi in general.  Fungi there is a wide variety of fungi. Mushrooms are those that made fungal a body that is big enough for us to see it.  They tend to be associated with a lot of different things; it could be trees, grass in our lawn, the wood in your house, they have a lot of places, ecological niches they can occupy.   

When it comes to people wanting to have a mushroom identified, we do have a submission form, they select in here that they want a mushroom ID (identification), but before that we hope they go to our mushroom identification page we have a lot of information there on what you want to do before you collect, definitely take photos of the specimen before you collect we even have a video when you're ready to collect how much dirt to include all that type of thing.  How to ship them.  I was explaining in the video sometimes a mushroom will suffer in transit.  It could go liquid (liquified). Under certain conditions under high humidity that’s what some mushrooms would do and I have examples on that page. 

To identify mushrooms, I rely on books and resources that will guide you through the characteristics you are looking for, and what type of particular group they may belong to.  Earlier I was asking, do you know what is the difference between ascomycetes versus basidiomycetes.  There are two main branches of the tree of life within the kingdom Fungi. The ascomycetes there are a lot of them.  The one we are most involved with in the clinic is the morel mushrooms.  Hopefully in the spring people will go and hunt for them.   And we do teach a certification so that people learn to identify the edible ones.  There are some that are not edible, and unfortunately, they look a lot like the morel mushrooms.  There is a genus and a species that show up in the woods at the same time the morels do, but that one is toxic.  What we are trying to do is before people go out into the woods, they come and take that class, they learn how to identify morels, and they can confidently go out and identify the false ones and reduce the chances that people are going to get sick by eating a false morel.  That class is particularly for people who hunt and want to sell mushrooms so that they can sell them in farmers markets and elsewhere.   

For the ID, the service ID most of the cases we get is the other branch the basidiomycetes (Basidiomycota).  And for that you know again we collect all the information going from the shape of the fungal body if you look at this one of course there’s a lot of difference characteristics the size the color sometimes the texture the cap if you think of the button mushrooms we eat in our salad they just have stalk, and they have a cap the spores are formed within the cap, they are thin layers called gills and then the gills are where the spores are formed.  We take a general look of how does the mushroom look like and what group does it belong to.  For examples, I will come in here and start looking at characteristics if it fits this, the guide will take me to a different key, and then I continue to investigate more characteristics the fungi have until I have a list of possible fungi. 

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Lina Rodriguez Salamanca Extension Plant Pathologist and Diagnostician (Program Specialist II)

Dr. Lina Rodriguez Salamanca is an extension plant pathologist and diagnostician with the Iowa State University Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic, a member of the North Central Plant Diagnostic Network (NCPDN) and National Plant Diagnostic Net...