Mushrooms featured on new stamps by Switzerland

March 11th, 2014

The Swiss love their mushrooms...

Picking edible mushrooms such as morel, porcini and chanterelles is a popular leisure pursuit in Switzerland. This is putting pressure on the mushroom populations of our forests, prompting many cantons to introduce picking restrictions. However, humans only pick the fruiting body; the major part of the mushroom, with its root-like filaments, lives concealed underground and performs important functions in the forest ecosystem.

Some mushrooms specialize in breaking down dead wood, leaves and needles and returning these materials to the nutrient cycle. So-called mychorrizal fungi have a close symbiotic relationship with tree roots and improve the absorption of nutrients and water by woodland trees, while pathogenic fungi regulate biodiversity in the forest.

Fungi propagate by means of microscopically small spores, which are formed on the underside of the cap in the shape of gills, tubes, ridges or spikes and are spread by the wind. If, for instance, you tread on a puffball, you'll see a dark cloud of spores escape.

The chanterelle is one of the most popular edible mushrooms and has a delicate, apricot-like flavor. This mychorrizal mushroom is widespread in deciduous and coniferous forests and grows best in acidic soils.

The sooty milkcap is commonly found in alpine coniferous forests, as a mychorrizal partner to the spruce. It is prized as an edible mushroom and has an attractive, velvety surface. When damaged, it releases a white milky substance which turns salmon pink when it hits the air.