Mycelium, Just What the Soil Doctor Ordered!

What Happens Downstream Matters

Jane Mio continues her work on the Estuary Re-Vegetation Project Site with her teams of local Volunteers.

Saturday, July 16, 2022
Location: Mike Fox Park by Basketball court/Fruit Orchard
Volunteers: 10 residents, 4 Downtown Street Team members

Total Volunteer Hours: 28

Estuary Volunteers, July 2022
Back row: Haley, Julio, Kaiya, Nicole, Ceci, Robin, Ivan. Front: Peggy, Tom, Marky, August. Not shown: Ann, Adam, Jane

In July, Jan Mio and a team of 14 volunteers from the Estuary Project met along the banks of the San Lorenzo River to continue their work in supporting the health of the estuary and beyond. Part of their work was the planting of several native species that provide protection to some of our smallest river bank animals, such as insect pollinators and lizards. However, the volunteers also worked to remove invasive mustard that had found its way to the river estuary and many places up the San Lorenzo River.

At one time, carpets of wildflowers covered all of California, supported by vast networks of mycelia.

Mycelia, the name of a group of fungi, are necessary for decomposing plant matter. Its importance in the ecosystem is prime as it acts to build soil by breaking down carbon and common pollutants (including hydrocarbons and some pesticides). While it works in partnership with other fungi, organic matter would not decompose without mycelium. You may likely find it in a pile of old wood in your yard as it forms various-sized colonies that appear as thin, white strands. 

Mushroom's roots (mycélium) • Photo credit: The original uploader was Lex vB at Dutch Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Mustard Grass • Photo by moonjazz

Mustard, one of the first invasive plants to find California, likely came with the Spanish as they worked their way up the West Coast. Mustard, though, acts to sterilize the soil and is incompatible with mycelium. Thus, as mustard marched through the State, the carpets of native wildflowers disappeared as mustard took hold of our soils.

Soil health and the health of the river estuary rely on mycelia. The seemingly small act of removing mustard helps support a healthy balance in our local ecosystem and beyond.

Ceci, Jane’s long-time friend from Columbia, is ready for her next task.
August, the tamer of dead Coyote bush wood
Debris gatherer Peggy Pollard, member of the Sunrise Rotary Club & lead for UCSC International Students.

The San Lorenzo Valley Native Habitat Restoration Program integrates environmental and community needs to restore the riparian habitat and ensure the ongoing health and beauty of the watershed.

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