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Mushrooms and the Moon

Mushrooms and the Moon
Can mushrooms be lunatics? New evidence suggests they might just tick to a very specific celestial rhythm
Attila Fődi
Partial Eclipse of the Moon Observed Octover 24 1874, The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings Atlas, 1881, from the collection of the New York Public Library.

Theories about the impact of our moon on biological life on earth have probably been around since humanity first looked up at night. Its influence is commonly cited as impacting many different aspects of life, including the fruiting of mushrooms. Alongside the obvious and eye-catching stories about fairies & rings, and witches rituals, there are more prosaic associations, chief amongst which is the traditional belief that mushrooms are more abundant around the full moon.

Many organisms have been scientifically proven to respond to the light of the Moon, especially in timing spawning, hatching or conception – or in the case of Arctic plankton basing their daily rising and sinking with reference to lunar luminescence. Scientifically, however, the general consensus has been that mushrooms do not number amongst these lunar-influenced life-forms. In 2011 Swiss researchers systematically measured the mushrooms collected on a weekly basis in five long-term observational plots and found no relationship between the lunar phase and mushroom yields, concluding that the influence of the Moon on mushroom production is a myth.

King Oyster Mushrooms.

But it now appears that this may not be the end of the story as far as mushrooms’ relationship with the Moon is concerned. There is a growing body of evidence that, in addition to the impact of its light, the Moon also influences living organisms on Earth through its gravity. Of course, its greatest gravitational influence is on the tides, but it appears that the influence of the moon’s gravity on the earth’s electromagnetic field can also be picked up directly by living organisms.

“IN ADDITION TO THE IMPACT OF ITS LIGHT, THE MOON ALSO INFLUENCES LIVING ORGANISMS THROUGH ITS GRAVITY

If moved to a different location, oysters manage to adjust their feeding cycle to coincide with high tide in their new location, even when kept in the dark. When human volunteers are shielded from natural light their daily cycle naturally shifts to a lunar day of 24.8 hours.

A gravitational component has also been reported in the influence of the moon on people with bipolar disorder. In one study of 17 patients with rapid cycling bipolar disorder mood cycles exhibited synchronies with three different lunar cycles with the common component being the force of gravity. In a second study it was observed that major shifts from shorter mood cycles to longer mood cycles in six patients with bipolar disorder repeatedly coincided with 206-day recurrences of perigee-syzygies, also known as supermoons, when a full moon coincides with a time when the moon is closest to the earth in its elliptical orbit and its gravitational pull is greatest.

“RESEARCHERS HAVE IDENTIFIED CRYSTALS THAT ENABLE BACTERIA TO STEER THEMSELVES ALONG MAGNETIC LINES”

While at first sight it may seem fanciful that we have the ability to sense variations in the earth’s magnetic field caused by the gravitational pull of the moon, researchers have identified crystals that enable bacteria to steer themselves along magnetic lines, and found similar crystals in many other species, including humans. They have also identified magnetic influences on light-sensing molecules called cryptochromes found in plants and animals, which are involved in regulating biological clocks, as well as many other cellular functions.

With lifeforms from plants to humans having an ability to sense and respond to gravity it would be surprising if mushrooms did not, and this is exactly what brothers William and Matthew Rooney, co-founders of Gourmet Mushrooms Ltd (Mushroom Table), have observed since establishing their farm in an old Essex cow shed in 1996.

“BEING AWARE OF IMPENDING SUPERMOONS THEY ARE ABLE TO ADJUST THE TIMING OF INOCULATION SO THEY ALWAYS HAVE FRESH MUSHROOMS TO SELL”

Mare Humorum, The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings Atlas, 1881, from the collection of the New York Public Library

Gourmet Mushrooms Ltd was one of the first UK growers to grow varieties beyond the white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus). Starting with oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) they expanded early on to add Shiitake (Leninula edodes) and Lion’s Mane(both Hericium erinaceus – Bearded Tooth, and H. coralloides – Coral Tooth) Later they began growing Reishi using native Ganoderma lucidum and eventually added Buna-shimeji (Hypsizygus tessulatus) and King Oyster (Pleurotus eryngii). Apart from the Shiitake and Buna-shimeji all their mushrooms are grown using strains they have collected locally.

Several years ago they noticed that every few months their Oyster Mushrooms would stop fruiting for 2-3 days and that following this time there would be a large flush of fruiting bodies. As P. ostreatus usually fruits very reliably they struggled to understand why this was happening until they realised that it always coincided with a supermoon. They then found that they were able to accurately predict such events from astronomical charts indicating the timing of the next perigee-syzygie.

Convinced of the moon’s influence on the growth of their mushrooms they subsequently converted their production to follow biodynamic principles as taught by the German philosopher Rudolf Steiner who stressed the impact of lunar cycles on crop cultivation with their farm now being Demeter certified. Since switching to biodynamic cultivation they report more regular fruiting with more even quality and by being aware of impending supermoons they are also able to adjust the timing of inoculation by a couple of days so that they always have fresh mushrooms to sell in farmers markets.

While they find that fruiting of most species is suppressed by supermoons, this is not always the case; with fruiting of Lion’s Mane actually increasing. Pending further data and a less anecdotal study, it would seem that different mushroom varieties might be somewhat impacted, in various ways, not by the light the Moon reflects from the Sun, but by the pull of its own gravity. Perhaps there was a grain of truth in the old tales after all.

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