Exploring Dom’s Mycological Research Station

Dom Thomas with oyster mushrooms he grew on a sycamore stump in Sladebank Woods

In these strange times, we thought we’d start with a smile! Here’s Dom Thomas from Stroud’s Fungusloci project proudly showing oyster mushrooms that he grew on a sycamore stump in the woods as part of our Woodland Lab projects. Read on for the full story and to find out what’s happening in the fungi department right now.

Dom offered a ‘Make your own mushroom log’ workshop during our Open Weekend in 2016, which quickly booked up. We provided oak logs from the woods by felling one of our trees that was leaning over an area that was due to be replanted. Dom showed participants how to drill holes in the logs to the required depth, and then plug the holes with dowels that were inoculated with spawn. These were then sealed in with red ‘cheese wax’ which makes the logs look rather bloody in places! The logs were taken away to wait patiently in shady gardens for future fruit. More about this later …

Two ladies carrying oak stumps injected with shiitake spores and sealed in October 2016
Oak stumps injected with shiitake spores and sealed

This got us thinking and talking about how we could integrate mushroom production into our woodland management processes. Dom explained how to take freshly cut stumps, especially sycamore, plug them with oyster mushroom dowels, and then ‘ring bark’ the stumps so they don’t grow. The fungi use the energy from the wood to start to produce mushrooms (their fruit). We would end up with locally grown food and also inhibit the regeneration of the sycamore in an area we had planted with other species – a win win management tool! As some of you will know, Dom has produced oyster mushrooms using waste coffee from Stroud’s cafes which were sold at the Farmers’ Market, so this is a step change: less scientifically precise but hopefully a small contribution to local food production and to Stroud’s ecology.

Oyster mushrooms grown on sycamore stump in March 2020
Oyster mushrooms grown on sycamore stump, March 2020

Bang up to date, looking rather like something on Easter Island, are the latest experiments:

Logs injected with spores from different species of fungi

In the foreground are part-buried beech logs inoculated with namako spawn. Behind them on the left are ash log ‘sandwiches’ to see if we can grow oyster mushrooms on the stumps of the ash we will inevitably be felling as a result of ash dieback. Sycamore ‘sandwiches’ are further uphill. To their right are larger ash logs with chicken of the woods spawn, and up the hill on their ends, beech logs with lion’s mane spawn. Just out of view are sycamore logs inoculated with enoki. We have some encouraging results so far. Fingers crossed!

And to finish this thread for now, here is a picture of some shiitake mushrooms grown by Dom on the oak we provided back in 2016. We ate the rest!

Shiitake mushrooms grown on oak
Shiitake mushrooms grown on oak