Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.
Jill Sanford | 08.28.2017

If you have spent any amount of time outside in damp, forested places like the Pacific Northwest, you know that spotting an interesting fungi on a hike can sometimes be as exciting as seeing a rare wild animal.

It was assumed for a very long time that fungi, a category that encompasses everything from mold to yeast to mushrooms, were just another funky type of plants. In 1966, they were given their own category in the animal kingdom when researchers discovered they are actually living organisms.

Unlike regular plants, they don’t create their own nutrients. Like animals, they need to take in carbohydrates, fats, and proteins from the world around them. The part where it gets weird is that they don’t digest their food inside the body like we do. Instead, they expel enzymes and break down the nutrients from their food externally rather than internally. Crazy, right?

So, what do mushrooms and mold have to do with outdoor recreation? When you open your eyes to how interesting and mind boggling these organisms are, it brings a whole new element to a hike or outdoor outing.

They are also pretty tasty, we have to admit. Mushroom hunting and gathering is rising in popularity and is a great way to learn more about these interesting fungi. Be cautious, however. There are plenty of edible mushrooms out there that look really similar to ones that could be poisonous and potentially life threatening if you eat them. If you are new to mushroom hunting, consider joining your local mycological society to learn what is and isn’t safe in your area. 

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