Mushrooms and fires

Fires spread regularly in forest environments, reducing to ash brush, soil litter, flora and fauna that cannot escape. The appeased fire leaves charred, dark, sad landscapes, where all life seems to have disappeared. But one spring morning, mushrooms point their hats, resistant, ready to settle in these shaken lands.

Mushrooms and fires
Mushrooms and fires

They emerge from the ashes

From the first spring following a fire, small fungi develop their sporophores, visible reproductive parts, in the midst of ashes and coals. Brown, ocher or orange cups of Pézizes, puckered heads Gyromiterssmall black balls Cenococcumstanding silhouettes Morels… The Ascomycetes are out. The fire passed quickly through the undergrowth, grazing the trunks of large trees, but turning into ash, charcoal and mineral elements, all life, all debris, subjecting the soil to unusual temperatures. How could these Ascomycetes reappear so quickly?

Multiple survival strategies

Subjected for millions of years to natural fires, many fungi have adapted by developing amazing survival strategies. If the fires move at full speed through the undergrowth meeting sparse low vegetation, if they do not repeat themselves with excessive frequency, then a few Ascomycetes resurface.

Their mycelium, vegetative part, buries itself deeply in the ground, sheltered from thermal shocks, water stress. Some will even compact their mycelium in hard and resistant sclerotia. And species of Morels would even go so far as to wrap their mycelium around the roots of trees, patiently waiting for their death to feed on their decay. they have learned to survive, to protect oneself, to resume biological activity in a disrupted habitat.

Survive, then spread

Geopixix carbonaria is one of the first Pézize to show its brown ocher cups, reproductive sporophores, in large numbers after a fire. Its underground mycelium has survived, but will it be able to last over time? This Ascomycete of the family of Pyronemataceae would be linked to the roots of surrounding trees and shrubs, forming a mycorrhizae, an association with shared benefits. But the environment has been turned upside down, his associates are in danger of dying. On the territory, other plants germinate, reject stumps. New trees and shrubs are in preparation. The fruiting bodies of Geopixix carbonaria will then emit spores in large quantities, recreate new symbioses, and thus propagate by adapting to the evolution of its habitat.


If a few mushrooms have successfully adapted to fires, many of them disappear, their mycelium destroyed by heat, water stress. But neighboring forests are still intact, diffusing each season the spores of all possible and imaginable species of the fungal world. Carried away by winds and animals, these spores seek new territories. But burnt soils are difficult, particular habitats. Only pioneer species particularly appreciating the coal, the mineral elements brought by the ashes, as well as the nitrates, will develop. For some they will live there exclusively, gradually opening the way to less specialized flora and fauna.

Among the pioneers

L’Omphale des Charbonnières, Myxomphalia maura, finds its place. From the Mycenaceae family, it will be found on charcoal, preferably coniferous. At his side will be the Flammule of the great coal, Pholiota highlandensise, from the Strophariaceae family.

Not to be confused with Chanterelles, the False chanterelle, Faerberia carbonaria, has also taken up residence in the old fire places. Just like the Great Psathyrelle, Psathyrella pennata, from the Psathyrellaceae family.

All of these fungi tell the story of ecosystems, of their amazing adaptations to extreme conditions. But they also tell another story, that of men. Their presence will reveal the presence of old fire places, coal mines, bivouacs, and habitats from more or less distant eras, under a vegetation that has regained its rights.

Source: Au Jardin, conseils en jardinage by

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