Category Archives: Fungi/Lichen

Closer Than They Seem

With spring’s arrival, students and faculty of UVA are migrating from the indoors to out. For the runners, warm temperatures mean taking the exercise outside and getting back on the trails. The Rivanna Trail, in particular, is great for first years. It’s nearby (especially if you live in new dorms) and beautiful. With a ton of trees and different networks of streams trickling under bridges, the Rivanna Trail is a perfect place to run or take a walk.



My first time through the trail, a couple friends and I decided to take advantage of a warm, though cloudy, day. After exploring for about 20 minutes, we came across a giant fallen tree—its splintered roots lay taller than each of us.



I approached the trunk, and that’s when I noticed: shelf fungus.





Shelf fungus wasn’t just on the trunk; polypore mushrooms were in spots all around the tree, too.





As we made our way down the trail, we found fungi everywhere in the woods.





Fungi can be found on campus and, like we discovered, also at a short distance off campus. With finals approaching, I hope everyone can find some time to de-stress and enjoy the spring weather before summer starts—maybe even go on a fungi hunt in the woods.


Uncovering the Unseen

First, our team would like to apologize for the late update on the biodiversity of fungi and lichen here at UVa, the weather was our worst enemy during the past few months! The snow covered everything or it was too wet to observe on UVa grounds.


However, this past week has been mostly sunny and around 60-70 degrees fahrenheit so I decided to see if there were any fungi and lichen in the area near Alderman and Clemons library. Here are some of the photos I took in between classes!


At first, we don’t see anything unusual about this tree… but if we look closer…..IMG_2208.JPG

How about just a bit closer?….IMG_2210.JPG

Isn’t that beautiful? This appears to be a crustose lichen and sadly it was the only type of lichen I could find near this area.

Here we do not see anything but if we just zoom in closer then we see something interesting!



Ta da! These appear to be crustose lichen as well. I pass by this bench at least twice a day, and I did not realize this bench had lichens on it!

Biogrounds is all about increasing awareness of our neglected bioversity of on UVa grounds and hope to change the perception of what is considered as being nature. So next time you happen be sitting on a wooden bench or walk by a big tree, try to see if there are any of these crustose lichens!

Post by Sujin Hong, Third-Year, Environmental Science

Where Are All the Mushrooms?

With the snow melting away and spring having arrived at the University of Virginia a couple weeks ago, it is becoming easier and easier to see the beautiful nature that surrounds us on Grounds. Whether it’s the blossoming trees or the playful squirrels, it is clear that our school is abundant with all forms of nature. However, one element that is sorely missing and much less visible is the presence of fungi. Throughout the semester, much of the fungi that our group has found and observed seem to be tucked away in discrete locations and away from the everyday view of the student population.

During the course of this semester, our group has written about the clear advantages that fungi can provide not only to the environment but also to our everyday lives. These organisms play a crucial role in breaking down rock and decomposing plant material. Fungi such as mycorrhizae enable the beautiful plants and trees that we see as we walk to classes or relax on the Lawn to absorb nutrients and grow. As decomposers, oyster mushrooms have been implemented in cleaning up sites contaminated by oil spills. Ingesting them also yields benefits, as regularly consuming mushrooms has been proven to help in managing weight, increasing vitamin D levels, and enhancing the immune system.

If fungi contribute so much to our society and environment, why are they not prominently featured in public places like cities, parks, and universities? The most common reason is aesthetics. Many people assume that fungi aren’t the most attractive and “crowd-pleasing” to look at, and therefore they are generally excluded from urban design. However, this may not be the case for long. Cities are beginning to understand the benefits and beauty of fungi and are incorporating them into the design of their cities. One such example is the Landscape Institution’s  “A High Line for London” competition, which the company Fletcher Priest Architects won with its proposed development of an underground mushroom park that would line the Mail Rail tunnel under Oxford Street in London, as seen below. Such efforts would ensure that in the future, fungi are able to get the credit they deserve and become a more visible part of our everyday society.

Photo from

Post by Anthony La, Fourth-Year, McIntire School of Commerce

The Morel of the Story

Here in Charlottesville, we’ve had a crazy month or so of snowstorms interchanged with sunny skies. While fungi will grow in the winter, the snow covering the ground makes it difficult to look for!

Nonetheless, I’m hoping our group will soon find fungi and lichen anywhere near as interesting as the kind in the Shenandoah National Park! Species there include shelf mushrooms


and morel mushrooms


which are edible! However, beware! Many mushroom species imitate morels, but the false ones are NOT edible!

Another edible is a very large fungus, the giant puffball!


Yep, not your typical mushroom!

As for lichen, those in Virginia include the rock tripe:


Lichen can be described as “crusty,” “shrubby,” or leaf-like, according to appearance, shape, and texture.

And for a bit of fungi trivia/myth: the field mushroom species has been said to only grow in areas often visited by stallions, ever since Roman times. This is the reason many believe the species is in decline in many of its frequent locations.

Works Cited

“Field mushroom (Agaricus campestris).” Field mushroom videos, photos and facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

“Mushrooms and Other Fungi.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.

Post by Kelsey Veazey, Second-Year, Urban and Environmental Planning

Fungi: Our Unsung Heroes

Historically, fungi have probably been the most underrated kingdom. That is until recent decades. The more that is understood about these organisms, the more possibilities present themselves. Fungi play a vital role in the ecosystem while having significant implications in anthropological, medicinal, environmental, and agricultural fields to name a few.

When I say vital role in the ecosystem, I really mean vital. Through their vast mycelia networks, fungi spread nutrients and retain water, characteristics that plants readily take advantage of. Fungi also provide to plants disease resistance, thermal resistance, protection from predation, and protection from climate change/droughts. Plants couldn’t exist without them. They break down the complex molecules that once belonged to living organisms into simpler compounds that are usable by others in the ecosystem. In addition to decomposing other organisms, fungi also break down rocks while extracting their nutrients. These two processes form our soil, a substance that, while essential, is often taken for granted. And of course, this is all in addition to having a fair number of deliciously delectable members of the fungal kingdom.

In essence, our team’s biogrounds efforts are to give credit where credit is due.  Our goal is to recognize the presence and stress the importance of fungi in the ecosystem that is the UVA campus. It is important to recognize, however, that fungi are actually everywhere. Their spores are on you right now. Every square inch of soil has up to 8 miles of mycelia and it stretches everywhere. Our search will be primarily for mushrooms and lichen (which is basically a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and a photosynthetic organism) simply because we can see them without a microscope. We will be photographing them for later identification, so keep an eye out for some pictures in future blog posts!

Most of the information in this post I derived from “The Future is Fungi,” a Paul Stamets video lecture (link below). Stamets is a pioneer in the field of mycology and if you set aside the hour and a half that it takes to hear him out, I promise you will agree that the future really is fungi.

Stamets lecture:

Post by Daniel Lassiter, Second-Year, Civil and Environmental Engineering