Mushrooms & Fungi Galore
Earlier in the summer I was chatting with my 9 year old nephew about what he wanted to focus on for our now annual "summer camp" together in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Among a few other things, he said fungi. I said sounds good and thought this will encourage me to learn more about fungi id.
Well, I had no idea just how much I was about to learn! Fast forward to the end of August and we are heading off to the mountains together, starting with a stop by my grandmother's house (his great-grandmother).
As soon as we pulled in her driveway we saw literally 20 mushrooms of different varieties (including the one pictured above, does anyone have an id for this?). And upon his further exploration of her whole yard he found literally 100 mushrooms of about 10 different varieties!
Big, small, colorful, brown, old, new, you name it they were growing in my grandma's yard! What a way to kick off a fungi focused week!
So after a visit and a chopping open of an "old man of the forest" mushroom to watch the insides turn colors (this is one of the few fungi I can 100% positively id on sight) we were off to the mountains for more fun.
Once in the mountains, it was a full on fungi bonanza along the trails. Every turn revealed new fungi for us to enjoy, and those kid eagle eyes were spotting them left and right! We took lots of photos so we could go back and try to id all these fungi in our field guide and document them in our nature journals.
We didn't gave a giant amount of luck with our id, we needed a fungi specific guide, but the success we had was more spectacular than I could ever imagine. *Even cooler than the fungi growing on fungi in the photo above!
One afternoon on a short trail just behind our house, that we walk on all the time, we discovered the infamous bright orange jack o'lantern mushroom! Now, at this time we didn't know much about it beyond that it is poisonous and is often mistaken for the tasty chanterelle. We were thrilled to find a mushroom we could 100% identify and especially one that is so bright and pretty and also comes with some adventure.
Once we returned home, we created entries about the jack o'lantern mushroom in our nature journals, and while gathering more information from our field guide we discovered..... this mushroom glows in the dark! What? Could we actually be able to see a bioluminescent fungi with our own eyes? Yes, yes we could!
We immediately began planning our night forest outing! This was a big deal because going into the forest at night was a new experience for the 9 year old. (Fortunately this group of mushrooms was on such an easy flat trail very close to our house, and only a few yards from the trail head too, so there wasn't any danger involved from a responsible adult standpoint.)
Now, I had heard that some fungi bioluminesce, but I just assumed they were hidden in secret forest alcoves in far off exciting and locales - not literally in my own backyard!
So about 9pm once it was finally dark, we head off on the trail. We arrive at the cluster of mushrooms, and sit to let our eyes adjust to the dark (as the website we researched on recommended.
As our eyes adjusted, we thought, wait, is that a glow? Are our eyes playing tricks on us?
My partner took a stick and bent up the edge of a cap and sure enough! We saw the glow coming from the gills. So we picked one to get a closer look, and WOW!!!
The whole underside of the mushroom was producing its own glow that was almost effervescent in a way. It undulated and sparkled and showed off a glow that reminded me of comb jellies in the bay or the bioluminescent plankton in the hot summer ocean. It was totally spectacular. We sat in wonder and amazement just watching it. It was an experience we will never forget.
I've since learned that the glow of the jack o'lantern mushroom is called "foxfire". Doesn't that just add to the wonder?
I've known about the foxfire books for decades and seen shops, etc., called Foxfire, but I just thought it was like a woodsy themed name. I had no idea what pure wonder that word was referencing!
In an effort to model the value of primary experience, we intentionally decided to not bring a camera with us into the forest that night. So this photo is from the field guide: Mushrooms of the Southeast by Elliott and Stephenson is all I've got to show you, but literally what we saw glowed bright like this - only it's even more sparkly in person!
Foxfire, what a wonder-filled word and perhaps my new favorite word too! I hope one day, immersed in the night forest, to a symphony of insects, you and your favorite people get to see some foxfire with your own eyes too!
A bit more fungi fun!
If you have any id info on any of the mushrooms in this post, please comment below! I am trying to learn and using field guides alone is tough for making ids!
One find I actually made was a coral fungi. That was exciting because I had seen those in a book, but never thought I'd see one in person. It gets its name because it looks just like coral!
Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey Tail is considered valuable in medicine because it has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-tumor, and immune enhancing properties. Oncologists work with it as a supplement to treatments because it enhances medicine effectiveness. Mycologists aren't totally sure if the role in the forest of this fungi is as a weak parasite or solely a decomposer.
I don't know the names of these fungi, but I hope you enjoy the photos!
Do you know any of the names?
Let me know in the comments below!
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