Why can't we kill stone pelts

Way of life of the mushrooms

Where and when? How and why?

"Where do you find boletus here?" Every mushroom consultant is confronted with this question on a regular basis and will smile a little mildly. On the one hand it is a shame that all the other delicious mushrooms do not get the necessary attention, on the other hand it will lead to disappointment if he reveals a location and it is not bearing fruit at the time when the initiated is looking there.

What now? It only helps to find out for yourself where and when this or that species grows. It is very helpful if you know a little about the way mushrooms live. You have probably already noticed that chanterelles do not grow everywhere and at any time, but at certain times in certain places. What do these places have in common? A less welcome fungus is the sponge in the cellar or in the beams of the house. Why does it thrive so well on me of all places and what can I do to get rid of it? This question is also answered in the Fungi's love life.

The mushroom and its fruits

First of all, it is important to know that the actual fungus, namely the so-called mycelium, grows in secret. Let us compare it to the trunk and branches of an apple tree. The mycelium can grow in the ground or in certain substrates, e.g. on dead wood, such as in the beams of your house, or in the layer of leaves on the forest floor. If we lift this up, we see a mostly white, spider-like network in some places. This is the living being fungus, comparable to our apple tree.

At certain times the mycelium forms fruiting bodies, just as the fruit tree bears fruit. We commonly refer to this as the mushroom. Now we also understand why the same mushrooms appear in a certain place every year. The mycelium grows there true to its location and sometimes bears fruit like a tree. Other types of mushrooms grow on dead trees. Logically, they only develop fruiting bodies there until the tree has completely rotted and disappeared.

When exactly a fungus fructifies depends first of all on the species, just as an apple tree bears fruit in a different season of the year than a willow tree. However, changing environmental influences such as temperature and humidity continue to play a decisive role, which you can find out more about under Ecology.

What does the fungus feed on?

Unlike plants, to which the fungi are not closely related, the latter are not able to carry out photosynthesis, i.e. to split the carbon dioxide from the air with the help of sunlight and use it to build carbohydrates. They have to get their nutrients from organic matter. This way of life is called heterotrophic.

Regardless of the classification into orders, families, genera, etc., mushrooms can be divided according to the way they are fed. We differentiate between saprobionts, parasites and symbionts, which develop nutrients in different ways and can therefore be found in different locations.

Saprobionts or saprophytes

The saprobionts, also called saprophytes, decompose dead organic material and thus fulfill an important function in the cycle of nature. If they didn't exist, there would be leaves, branches and whole trees from centuries and millennia in every forest. However, we also encounter them at home in the fruit bowl, when the orange is lying a little longer, or in the supporting beams of our roof. The only thing that helps with food is to be faster than the mold and the change in conditions in building protection if you don't want to resort to toxic fungicides. But these fungi not only decompose plants, but all kinds of living things. We find them on dead animals as well as on other mushrooms. There are specialists here who need a very specific substrate. For example, the branchy goatee only grows on dead beeches. Other species, such as champignons and oyster mushrooms, are less picky and grow in the forest on dead leaves or trees as well as in the basement on straw bales or horse manure. These mushrooms are therefore relatively easy to cultivate and are an important economic factor. In a tidy park without dead wood and leaf litter, we will expect fewer saprobionts than in a natural forest. In our seminars we go deeper into this matter and learn which types prefer which material.


The name sounds mean at first and suggests that these mushrooms feed on living organisms. Again, these do not have to be plants, other fungi, animals and even humans are just as affected. Who would want to see the scab on their apple tree and athlete's foot is not unrestrictedly popular either. But nature does not differentiate between good and bad and actually not between important and unimportant. We can also regard these mushrooms as a health police, which mainly attacks previously damaged organisms and thus fulfills a similar function here as the pike in the carp pond. This ensures a healthy population of its prey animals by specifically eating sick and weak.

An example in the realm of mushrooms is the honey mushroom. We find him in the forest as well as in the garden. If it appears there, we can be sure that one or the other tree or bush will soon be exhausted. We are of course less happy about this, but to blame - if one would even like to speak of it in the cycle of life - is not the fungus, but a dry summer, for example, which has weakened the plants and made them vulnerable. If we know these mechanisms, we can, for example, put a stop to the honey fungus on our floe by watering regularly, but not excessively, while it is up to mischief with the neighbors. Conversely, skin fungi fear the dry air of a hair dryer much more than the chemical club of the pharmaceutical industry. Why doesn't every doctor reveal this? Qui bono ?!

Symbionts or mycorrhizal fungi

From our subjective point of view, the symbionts who are not involved in the construction of trees but rather in the breaking down of trees seem more sympathetic to us. Ultimately, they contribute just as much or little to the functioning of the whole as the aforementioned forms of life. The trick to survival for all symbiotes is give and take. The partners of the symbiotic fungi, also called mycorrhizal fungi, are trees and other plants. The fungus spins its mycelium as a fine wickerwork, the so-called mycorrhiza, around the root tips of the partner tree. The fine ramifications of the mycelium can absorb the minerals of the soil much better than the coarser tree roots. They pass these on to the tree, which needs them to grow. In return, the tree supplies the fungus with carbohydrates, which the fungus cannot produce itself.

Unlike some saprophytes, these types of fungi do not live in and on dead leaves in the uppermost layer of the forest floor, but deep in the soil at the tree roots. Just like the other types of fungus, they develop fruiting bodies at certain times, of course above ground in order to be able to spread the spores. It is therefore worth first of all to know that such fungi can be found in the immediate vicinity of certain trees, although the information on the maximum distance to the trunk in the literature varies widely. Some authors think that the search is only worthwhile in a diameter that corresponds to that of the respective treetop, others give a radius that corresponds to three times the length of the tree. My experience is that this depends on the type of mushroom. Some always grow close to the trunk, others at a great distance, so that it is worthwhile to let your gaze wander.

In addition to these basics, it is interesting to know which fungus enters into a partnership with which plant in order to be able to search specifically. It turned out that some fungi only go into symbiosis with one particular plant. The golden bolete, for example, is strictly tied to the larch. Other mushrooms have a few partners, such as the spruce stone mushroom, which, contrary to its name suggests, can be found not only in spruce but also in the vicinity of other tree species, which is of course of great interest to know. We don't hold back in our courses. Still other fungi have a wide range of partners.

On the other hand, it is also worth looking at the matter from the side of the plants. Some of them, e.g. the birch, enter into a symbiosis with different boletus but also agaric mushrooms, such as the fly agaric. Others have few partners or only one and therefore only thrive in an area in which the corresponding fungus is also found. Still others do not need mycorrhizal fungi to grow, we look in vain for boletus and chanterelle in their vicinity. You can find out what these are here.