It's raining mushrooms in Singapore

Mushrooms like the leucocoprinus (above) and giant puffball (below) should be left alone as some may be deadly.
Mushrooms like the leucocoprinus (above) and giant puffball (below) should be left alone as some may be deadly.PHOTOS: JOYCE FANG, LAU WING LUP
Mushrooms like the leucocoprinus (above) and giant puffball (below) should be left alone as some may be deadly.
Mushrooms like the leucocoprinus (above) and giant puffball (below) should be left alone as some may be deadly.PHOTOS: JOYCE FANG, LAU WING LUP

The recent damp weather has sweetened the ground for a mushrooming of "nature's umbrellas".

In recent weeks, mushrooms have sprouted up overnight all over Singapore in the wake of the wet weather.

This is because mushrooms thrive on moisture and have a very fast growth rate, said mycologist Tan Teck Koon of the National University of Singapore.

But if their rise is fast, their demise comes quickly too. They tend to be short-lived, and start to rot after two or three days.

"They can be found where there is decaying soil and plant material, which serves as a source of food for these fungi," said Associate Professor Tan, of the NUS department of biological sciences.

He estimates that there are between 100 and 200 different species in Singapore.

Last week, a large beige mushroom - known as a giant puffball - was seen on a grass patch in Buangkok View. This species can be as small as a five-cent coin or as big as a football.

Mushrooms are the reproductive structures of fungi, said Prof Tan, and they grow out of the ground to disperse their spores when conditions are right. However, not all species are edible and some may even be deadly.

He said it is a misconception that all poisonous mushrooms are brightly coloured, and warned against collecting mushrooms that look similar to edible ones sold in markets overseas.

"My advice is - don't. Many poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms appear very similar to the layman," he said.

He said the best thing to do is to just leave the mushrooms alone.

"They don't keep well, so there is no point in collecting them," he said. "Just admire them in their natural habitat and give them a chance to sprout, expand and disperse their spores for survival."

linettel@sph.com.sg