The flora of the forest floor are starting to lose their deep green hues and shrinking as late summer’s meager rains are farther and fewer between.
Northeast Iowa is starting to see goldenrod come into bloom at the same time the leaves of walnut, birch and aspen leaves start to turn yellow, also. Faint scarlets can be seen in a couple of clematis leaves, and staghorn sumac is just beginning to reveal it’s brilliant reds. This man-of-the-earth’s thoughts are again starting to gear up for the autumn harvest of the woods and streams of the countryside ’round. I know summer is necessary, but it is a cinch I am glad it is coming to a close.
Summer loving folk may say that “all will soon be done”. We folk who spend free time observing our surroundings know that that is not true. Some things that live on this planet are just coming into fruition as the trees shed their leaves. My favorite case in point would be the fungus of fall. Most species of mushrooms spend their summers nearly dormant, then coming into fruit as the days get shorter and the nights get colder.
I am no expert in the world of fungi, but just merely beginning to be fascinated at their beauty and workings. From dainty pinwheels to 30-pound sulpher shelfs, to me, their beauty can only be rivaled by butterflies, birds, and fishes of the oceans, in the natural world.
A short lesson about mushrooms, then, as you peruse the few photos of the fruiting bodies I stumbled across on my wanderings today. From my Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms:
“Lacking chlorophyll, mushrooms must obtain their food by absorption from the surrounding medium (usually soil or decaying wood) in which they grow. The body of a mushroom is made up of slender filaments, collectively known as mycelium. Many of these filaments are adapted for absorbing nutrients. The individual filaments, or hyphae, penetrate the substrate, which may be soil, wood, bodies of other plants, or wastes such as dung, fallen leaves, twigs, and so on. Compact masses of hyphae remain vegetative underground, like roots, until the fruiting season for the species, which may last only a few weeks, or may extend from early spring through late fall.
The hyphae of the mushrooms that grow in fairy rings may expand outward each year to reach new nutrients, so that ring becomes larger each year. When a mushroom is actively growing during it’s fruiting season, the hyphae form organs that will produce and eventually disperse spores – the familiar mushroom fruiting body, which may be in the form of a cup, a cap and stalk, a bracket, a coral-like head, or a puffball. This fruiting body is not the entire mushroom, but merely a reproductive part, in a way roughly comparable to the flowers or cones of more familiar plants.”
Well, now. If you didn’t know a thing about mushrooms, you do now. And to think with much practice and help from a REAL mushroom expert, edible ones can be harvested. Ah, the earthy taste of mushrooms…
Alas, I am NOT AN EXPERT, and have not even tried to make a spore print of the mushrooms that I’m sure are edible. Therefore, they have gone uneaten, and unharvested, to supply the areas I walk through with specimens that will hopefully reproduce until the day has come that I feel confident on my identifications.
And I am thankful that they have a certain hold on me. I love to walk the trails anyway, but the fungi are more more excuse to do so. They are one of my favorite subjects to find along the trails. They hold still for the camera…! Unlike them damn chipmunks, birds, deer and turkeys -
Until the next time – cheers!