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Chicken of the Woods

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Nature’s recyclers, known as decomposers, play an essential role in nutrient cycling within our deciduous forest. Organisms such as fungi and bacteria break down humus (dead or decaying matter) on the forest floor. Through this process, fallen logs and deciduous leaves are returned back into the ecosystem, enriching our soils with nutrients, and ensuring the future growth of plants. This fall at the Greenacres Water Quality Education Center, we’ve experienced abundant rainfall and mild temperatures, ideal conditions for the growth of decomposers. Featured in this post is a brightly colored shelf fungus known as Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). This mushroom is prized as a local favorite among edible mushroom enthusiasts. Several pounds of this tasty mushroom can be found growing on a single log.  Over time, this mushroom will release millions of spores into the air. Spores that land and germinate on a neighboring substrate complete the lifecycle, growing another generation of nature’s recyclers. This fungus is just one of many different types of decomposers that will grow on this log, slowly breaking it down over the course of many years.