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Clear Lake Chapter

Chapter Meeting: Mycorrhizal Fungi

March 14, 2022

Mycorrhizae play important roles in plant nutrition, soil biology, and soil chemistry. David Lewis talks about mycorrhizal fungi and its role in a plant’s rhizosphere, its root system. He also discusses fungi in the garden and edible fungi in an extended Q&A.

About the Speaker

David P. Lewis, M.S., is a retired chemist and avid mycologist with a BS and MS from Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas, where his master’s thesis was based on a study of East Texas mushrooms. Currently, David is a research associate with the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, IL, where 5000 of his fungi collections are deposited. He is also a research associate with the Tracy Herbarium at Texas A&M University where 5500 of his fungi collections are deposited. From 2006 to 2018, he was the Fungal TWIG (coordinator for mycologists) for the Big Thicket National Preserve All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory. He is past president of the Gulf States Mycological Society, has authored many papers related to mycology, and discovered several new species of mushrooms (four species are named for him). He was a recipient of The North American Mycological Association’s award for Contributions to Amateur Mycology in 2009 and the R.E. Jackson Conservation Award from the Big Thicket Association in 2010. In 2021 he received the Mycological Society of America “Gordon and Tina Wasson Award” for contributions to mycology. With Alan and Arleen Bessette, he co-authored Mushrooms of the Gulf Coast States – A Field Guide to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Hosted by Environmental Institute of Houston, University of Houston-Clear Lake

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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason