Fungi In Abandoned Coal Mines

Mushrooms and bracket fungi grow in great profusion on the wood props or doors in abandoned coal mines, cement mines, etc. There is here an abundance of moisture, and the temperature conditions are more equable the year around. The conditions of environment then are very favorable for the rapid growth of these plants. They develop in mid-winter as well as in summer.

Mycelium Of Coal Mine Fungi

The mycelium of the mushrooms and bracket fungi grows in wonderful profusion in these abandoned coal mines. So far down in the moist earth the air in the tunnels or passages where the coal or rock has been removed is at all times nearly saturated with moisture. This abundance of moisture, with the favorable temperature, permits the mycelium to grow on the surface of the wood structures as readily as within the wood.

In the forest, while the air is damp at times, it soon dries out to such a degree that the mycelium can not exist to any great extent on the outer surface of the trunks and stumps, for it needs a great percentage of moisture for growth. The moisture, however, is abundant within the stumps or tree trunks, and the mycelium develops abundantly there.

So one can understand how it is that deep down in these abandoned mines the mycelium grows profusely on the surface of doors and wood props. Figure 11 is from a flashlight photograph, taken by the writer, of a beautiful growth on the surface of one of the doors in an abandoned coal mine at Wilkesbarre, Pa., during September, 1896. The specimen covered an area eight by ten feet on the surface of the door. The illustration shows very well the habit of growth of the mycelium. At the right is the advancing zone of growth, marked by several fan-shaped areas. At the extreme edge of growth the mycelium presents a delicate fringe of the growing ends where the threads are interlaced uniformly over the entire area. But a little distance back from the edge, where the mycelium is older, the threads are growing in a different way. They are now uniting into definite strands. Still further back and covering the larger part of the sheet of mycelium lying on the surface of the door, are numerous long, delicate tassels hanging downward. These were formed by the attempt on the part of the mycelium at numerous places to develop strands at right angles to the surface of the door. There being nothing to support them in their attempted aerial flight, they dangle downward in exquisite fashion. The mycelium in this condition is very soft and perishable. It disappears almost at touch. On the posts or wood props used to support the rock roof above, the mycelium grows in great profusion also, often covering them with a thick white mantle, or draping them with a fabric of elegant texture. From the upper ends of the props it spreads out over the rock roof above for several feet in circumference, and beautiful white pendulous tassels remind one of stalactites.