We can find, prod, pick, examine and in many cases even eat mushrooms but for this lesson I had the students make mushroom paper!
Together we took a short hike to collect the many polypores on a dead oak tree. The students cut them off with scissors and filled buckets. Back inside we snipped the polypores into tiny pieces and placed them in a blender with a bit of newspaper to help bind all the material together. The pulp was poured into a small tub so that screens could be dipped under and covered. The pulp covered screens were then flipped onto newspaper and sponged and squeezed many times until the sponge no longer absorbed water from the pulp. The polypore paper is then left to dry overnight on the newspaper until it peels off. Once peeled it can be used as is or cut up into bookmarks, greetings cards or any other uses.
The word polypore means many openings, when you find a turkeytail or other polypore look closely on the fruiting body of the mushroom for the spore tubes on the underside that allow for reproduction. Millions of spores can be produced by one fruiting body. The rest of the mushroom is the hyphae that have penetrated the cells of the host (tree) for food. You do not need to worry about picking the mushrooms, when you pick the fruiting body you do not destroy the organism, it is similar to picking an apple from a tree. Mushrooms are safe to touch, for the record according to Steve Brill, “no mushroom has ever attacked a person, even when provoked”.