Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Mycophagy (my-COUGH-a-gee) is an interesting word derived from Greek meaning "fungus glutton." Our native Banana Slugs (Ariolimax columbianus) are apparently mushroom epicures. Hiking the North Trail in the Kukutali Preserve I spotted the mollusks dining on our local portobellos. With October, the rains have returned, and damp weather seems to bring out both slugs and mushrooms.
All along the trail, I found evidence of mushroom munching. It was obvious the slugs relish these mycological delights.
I do not recommend following their lead. I don't know enough about mushrooms to declare these safe for people to eat. What is dessert for slugs could be deadly for humans. It seems the slugs have evolved to cope with potential toxins produced by the fungi. It is well known people have not.
At this point, allow me to editorialize. Wherever I hike, I find smashed and dead Banana Slugs. Hikers seem to be going out of their way to kill them. This is ignorance manifest.
PEOPLE: OUR NATIVE BANANA SLUGS ARE NOT GARDEN PESTS. They are recyclers extraordinaire, and essential components of our forest ecosystems. I have them in my garden and I have never seen one going after garden plants. They are more likely found cleaning up decaying plant material, molding fir needles and, of course, stray mushrooms.
If you have a yen to kill something go after the invasive European red, black and gray slugs that are not indigenous. In fact, be my guest. Then leave our charming and unassuming natives alone to do their recycling work.