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September 2011

September 2011 -- Mushrooms



  • Behind the Art:
  • EMG News:
    News for September
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview with Inge Vandormael
  • Ask an Artist:
    Ask Ursula!


  • Mushroom References (50 Photos)
  • Mushrooms
  • Gaits of the Quadruped


  • Poem: Mike the Meek Truffle
  • Poem: Mushroom Magic

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  • Mushrooms
    by Jenny Heidewald

    There are many secrets in the world of the mysterious mushroom. These fungi comes in many shapes, colors, and locations. What most of us think of when someone says "mushroom" or "toadstool" is actually the fruiting part of a large collection of hidden threads named hyphae, these form a mat collectively called mycelium. Unlike plants, fungi lack chlorophyll, and thus the ability to make its own food, because of this they are classified within their own kingdom

    (Mycetae). There are three different groups of mushrooms: saprophytic, parasitic, and symbiotic.

    Saprophytic mushrooms live in dead organic matter. These fungi are essential in the ecosystem to break down things like manure, fallen trees, leaves, dead animals and insects. Most gourmet mushrooms grow on dead wood, while the common button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), is cultivated in manure or compost.

    Saprophytic mushrooms commonly bond with trees, but can also enter symbiosis with other plants. The mycelium of this helpful fungi join the ends of roots, either by making a sheath around the host's roots (ectomycorrhizal), or by invading the host plant's root cells (endomycorrhiza). The host trades carbohydrates for various minerals collected from the surrounding soil by the fungi. The fungi also help the plant resist disease better than plants that don't have this relationship.

    Parasitic mushrooms can do a lot of damage to their hosts, often killing them and living on the dead remains. While the initial human reaction to this is to eradicate these mushrooms, they provide a valuable function, clearing out older growth for new growth and providing dead vegetation for other fungi. These parasitic species can grow to enormous sizes, as demonstrated by one mat of honey mushroom (Armillaria ostoyae) in eastern Oregon's Blue Mountains (USA). It is one of the largest known organisms covering approximately 2,400 acres (4 square miles), and is thought to be over 2,200 years old, if not more.

    Mushrooms reproduce by spore rather than flower or seed, and in many cases two mycelia have to join to make this offspring. The prized truffle and a few other types of mushrooms never send their growths out of the ground, instead relying on outside influences, such as pigs or insects, to locate and help disperse their spores. As evidenced by the aforementioned Oregon honey mushroom mat, mycelium can live for many years, thus sending up their mushroom shoots year after year in the same place. The common edible mushroom that you buy at the supermarket is the white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), also popular are shiitakes ( Lentinus edodes), and portobellos ( Agaricus bisporus) . Other popular edibles include oyster mushroom ( Pleurotus ostreatus), beech mushroom Hypsizygus marmoreus, morels ( Morchella esculenta, lion's mane ( Hericium erinaceus), chanterelle (Cantharellus cibariu) and we mustn't forget the famous truffle.

    In the world of research, mycologist Paul Stamets has been experimenting with myco-technology, using special strains of mushroom to convert oil soaked soil into useable soil, water filtration systems, even a strain that eliminates carpenter ants and termites. There are many unturned leaves in fungi research; many drugs beneficial to humans come from fungi, such as penicillin, and fungi are responsible for the taste of blue cheese, the rising of bread, and the fermentation of beer and wine, among other things. (Yeasts are unicellular fungi.)

    Since there are many poisonous species that can be misidentified by the novice, do NOT eat any wild mushroom unless it has been identified by an expert and deemed safe!

    Mushrooms and Culture

    Cultures seem to be either mushroom-loving or mushroom-fearing. The way mushrooms seem to magically appear out of the ground with no visible seed could be one of the reasons; the other possibly being the varying poisonous properties. Some of the beliefs concerning mushrooms include Romans thinking it the food of the gods, Greeks thinking it provided strength to warriors in battle, pharaohs prizing the mushroom as a delicacy while others were forbidden to eat them, and the mushroom as the sacred food of the Celtic god Janus.

    The poisons of the fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) are well known with the Siberian tribes of years past, and it is believed to be the center of many ancient mushroom cults. After eating these mushrooms, a sort of intoxicated feeling would occur, with reduced feelings of fatigue. The other side effect of eating this mushroom are the hallucinogenic properties; many hallucinogenic mushrooms were used in rituals, where the imbiber believes they were communing with their gods, or spirits. Since the mushroom was treated as a precious resource, Siberian cultures would also drink urine from a person that had eaten this mushroom, as the effects of the toxins were potent enough to be shared with several people that way.

    In more modern times, the knowledge of the psychoactive properties of certain mushrooms were passed on in folklore and indigenous cultures, sometimes consumed in broth, teas, or other such infusions for their effects as an alternative to outlawed drugs such as marijuana or heroin.

    Mushroom Form

    The mushroom can take many shapes, from the traditional stem and cap, to wild cup or ear shapes, or round ball shapes.

    Mushrooms also morph through different forms as they grow. In the follow illustration I depict the different stages of growth of a gilled mushroom. They start off underground as a round ball shape; the covering protecting the mushroom is called the veil. As the mushroom grows it splits the veil, some mushrooms have the remains of the veil in flecks across their caps; this splitting of the veil also reveals the cup-like volva around the base. During the button stage of the mushroom, the gills are still covered by a veil; when the mushroom reaches maturity this veil separates from the gills, leaving a "skirt" around the stalk. Not all mushrooms show evidence of this skirt.

    If you are able I recommend buying a bunch of different (edible) types of mushrooms to study. I found the ones I used for this article at my local farmers' market. It is helpful to study and sketch the mushroom from all sides, not to mention tasty once you are done with the specimen and need some lunch.

    Here is a group shot, from left to right, top to bottom, they are, Hen of the Woods ( Grifola frondosa ), oyster, shiitake, portobello, chanterelle, an interestingly shaped shiitake, (below the ruler) crimini ( baby portobello), (below crimini ) white button mushroom, (below button) beech mushroom, and last but not least, the sponge like lions mane.

    For a closer look and different angles, the following photos show the beech mushroom, portobello, shiitake and chanterelle.

    Here is a closer look at the shiitake, hen of the woods, and different views of the oyster.

    Having mushrooms to work with hands-on is helpful when you have complex ones, such as the oyster. To learn your subject better, it is helpful to sketch them multiple times. Each angle can bring a new insight.

    A popular idea for the mushroom is use as a cap, a skirt, umbrella, a dancing ring, a perch for a faerie, or a house. They also tend to be associated with gnomes.

    But don't feel bound by traditional mushroom depictions, the following ACEO is a gnome lady with a mushroom pie.

    From the Beginning

    Though it is easier to draw a mushroom from the side or a top 3/4 view; I want to show the underside with the gills. Don't worry about accuracy at this point; you can always fix things up in later stages, it is important to get your idea down on paper first.

    Once my idea is roughed out, I work on fixing anatomy and cleaning up my mushroom.

    Next, I develop the details, the placement of the clothes the features, and hair. Since she is flying, the wind plays an important role on her clothing and hair.

    Now the fun part, inking!

    And "Fly!" is finished!

    In closing:

    I n all of the articles I have written, the mushrooms were perhaps the most surprising to me; I had no idea that they were the part of such a larger organism. It is well worth diving into the world of this often overlooked fungi, not only for when you need to draw them for a fairy perch, but to learn about the mushroom's larger role in life on earth.

    PLEASE NOTE: The ingestion or consumption of particular species of wild mushrooms can cause serious internal injury or death, and/or may be illegal in some jurisdictions. You are advised NOT to consume wild mushrooms unless properly guided by an experienced expert. Even very experienced wild mushroom gatherers are upon rare occasion poisoned by eating toxic species, despite being well aware of the risks, through carelessness.

    Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Jan Danforth of Woodlands Mushrooms for her assistance in acquiring the collection of mushrooms used in the photos and for reference. Also, once again, my husband, Alexander D. Mitchell IV, for editing and proofreading.


    Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, by Paul Stamets.

    The Mushroom Book: How to Identify, Gather and Cook Wild Mushrooms and Other Fungi, by Thomas Laessoe, Anna Del Conte, and Gary Lincoff

    Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms of the World, by Ian R. Hall, Steven L. Stephenson, Peter K. Buchanan, Wang Yun, Anthony L. J. Cole

    Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America, by Roger Phillips

    Mushrooms: Psychedelic Fungi (Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Drugs. Series 1), by Peter E. Furst

    Celebrating the Wild Mushroom, by Saran Ann Friedman

    Where I found the public domain photos for this article.

    Jenny Heidewald is one of those self-taught artists that has been drawing since she was little; she remembers the exact moment she decided that she wanted to be an artist. Interestingly enough, it was while watching her mom draw the hand of God reaching from the clouds to His followers. Jenny was floored, it seemed to be magic, an image appearing out of nowhere. She thought, "I want
    to do THAT!" In addition to writing for EMG-zine, Jenny is a prolific artist who has worked in many mediums. Her current favorite technique is working with colored micron pens, and coloring either with watercolor or Photoshop. Jenny lives in Maryland with her husband. Please check out her Sketchfest, Portrait Adoption, Deviant Art, and Elfwood pages.

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