Sprouting New Life

The Virginia Zoo Horticulture Department is working on a new type of garden that is not only unique for guests to see, but that is beneficial for the flora and fauna on Zoo grounds.

Next time you’re in the Zoo, make your way to the Shade Garden across from our bison exhibit. While there, look just over the fence for three large tree stumps spotted with red markings that look more like a science experiment than an actual garden. These logs are actually growing new life, and pretty soon there won’t be mush-room for the organisms to grow. That’s right, our Horticulture staff is growing mushrooms!

In April, staff took old Elm, Willow and Oak tree logs and drilled dozens of holes into the wood. They then proceeded to place plugs filled with mushroom spawn (the vegetative growth of a fungus) into the wood and covered each spot with cheese wax, which explains the red dots seen all over the logs. The logs are kept in one of the shadiest parts of the Zoo and watered every other day (pending weather) to keep them moist – both of which contribute to optimum growth

Overall, there are five different types of mushrooms potentially growing in the logs:

Bear’s Head Tooth

Photo Attributed to Author: John Carl Jacobs

Lion’s Mane

Maitake/Hen of the Woods

Blue Oyster

Pearl Oyster

The mushrooms should start appearing within the next few months. The plan is to use the garden as a means to educate the public about the benefits of mushrooms and to use some of the mushrooms, since they are all edible, as browse for some of the animals to eat and have for enrichment.