The past couple of days have filled me with excited eagerness. The cooler weather is bringing life-giving moisture to the local mountain slopes by my house. After many months of dryness, I can almost feel the joy of the plants as they prepare themselves to quench their thirst. As a farmer, I am happy that the crops my friends and I have planted over the past season get to drink the living waters that are plentiful once more.
In nature, over 90% of plants form symbiotic relationships with soil-dwelling fungi. These fungi wrap around and snuggle up inside the roots of plants to avail themselves of the sugars they produce as a result of plants’ symbiotic relationship with our local star – the sun. In exchange, these root-symbiotic fungi – known as mycorrhizae – transport nutrients from the surrounding soil and give them to the plants. For every meter of tree roots, there is an associated kilometer of mycorrhizae reaching out in all directions beneath our feet into the surrounding environment. Amazingly, these fungi can mine rocks and pass minerals along to the plants they are in mutual relationship with – minerals that are absolutely necessary to the plant’s ability to thrive in the natural world. When ambient moisture levels are high, as they are right now, these mycorrhizal fungi are essential for collecting and giving living water to their plant friends. This ancient fungal-plant symbiosis – which has arisen from billions of years of co-evolution – is an essential relationship for nearly every plant on this blue-green planet.
With the ambient moisture levels high, I wake up in excitement each day to go out and admire wild mushrooms appearing from below. I smile as the humidity clings to my body knowing what is emerging on the mountainsides surrounding me: not dozens, not hundreds, not thousands, but millions upon millions of mushrooms swelling up from the soil. As you read this, I am packing my gear and preparing myself and my family to visit the wild spaces.