Manitoulin island sees explosion of mushrooms this fall

From spring to mid-October, weather conditions lead to more and bigger mushrooms

Maureen Strickland

boot next to mushroom
A size-nine women’s boot demonstrates why you can see these mushrooms from the road. Typically they are no bigger than a loonie. Maureen Strickland/Kicker

MANITOULIN ISLAND, Ont. – Ideal conditions lead to a noticeable increase in fall mushrooms on Manitoulin Island, delighting some and giving a last boost to soil health before winter sets in.

“The mushrooms have been prolific; they come and go quickly as that is the nature of mushrooms. I get really excited to see what pops up each day,” said Patty Chapman, an avid gardener and resident of Little Current.

“I like to tell stories to my grandkids about the mushrooms and fairies, because mushrooms are magical and so are fairies, so it’s been a bumper year for stories as well.”

As Chapman strolls through her yard on a drizzly and cooling-down mid-October day, she notes that the mushrooms are just starting to slow down, well past the usual time she would see them.

Patty Chapman is an avid gardener. She checks her yard each day for new mushrooms. Maureen Strickland/Kicker
Patty Chapman is an avid gardener. She checks her yard each day for new mushrooms. Maureen Strickland/Kicker

The mushrooms are not just popping up in yards.

On Manitoulin’s west end, you can see the mushrooms in the hay fields from the road. Locals report mushrooms, typically the size of a loonie,  are enormous this year, and much more plentiful.

According to Shane O’Donnell, co-owner and founder of Heartwood Mushrooms in Little Current, you need to go back to weather conditions in the spring right up to the hotter than normal temperatures this fall to explain the proliferation of mushrooms. 

In their controlled growing environment, Heartwood Mushrooms optimizes conditions for maximum mushroom yield. 

This year, these same conditions occurred naturally, culminating in this fall’s mushroom boom.

O’Donnell says spring and summer were wetter than normal this year, and the humidity really boosts the health of mycelium.  

Mycelium makes up the root system of the mushroom and consists of thread-like filaments that are found in the soil. The mycelium break down organic matter in the soil and release nutrients for other plants to absorb.

But what really triggered these fall mushrooms, says O’Donnell, was a drastic drop in temperatures in early September after a very hot August. The cold triggers the mycelium to produce the fruiting body.

The fruiting body is the mushroom that is seen above ground. 

The subsequent return of hot fall weather then super-powered the fruit production.  The result: more and larger mushrooms.

Mushrooms boost soil

For those who aspire to the trimmed green lawn with not a weed in sight these mushrooms might go the way of the pulled dandelion or get chopped up by the blades of a lawnmower.

In fact, Chapman’s brother mowed down the remaining mushrooms in her yard a few days ago.

O’Donnell recommends leaving those fruiting bodies to decompose naturally as the release of the spores means more mycelium and healthier soil over time.

This year’s Manitoulin mushroom boom is a soil boon.

Against the background of our sometimes fraught human world, the mushroom explosion is a reassuring sign that the cycle of life, as well as for some, a bit of magic, continues.

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