July 1, 2011

Small Treasures

Walking in the woods, and through the fields, my attention is caught by tiny growing things; I bend down, kneel, lie on the ground to get closer. Looking through my camera lens I can observe these new worlds better than with my aging eyes. And what I see is a wonder, a miniature forest of varied greens and changing textures, with mushrooms, only a half inch wide, standing as the giants.

The pale blue green of the stalks of Pixie Cup lichen add a note of whimsy. When I watched the movie Avatar, I recognized the forms of lichens and mosses, miniature in our world, enlarged to make the magical forests of Pandora.

I assumed that these teeny, 1/8 inch wide, toadstools, with their thin black stalks and white crinkled caps are mushrooms, but it's possible they are the fruiting bodies of the mosses, which look like juicy very small versions of ferns.

Like a mysterious code, these small dots of brilliant red decorate the surface of a fallen log; they huddle together or cast themselves in arcs and lines.

Lying in the path was a small fallen branch, maybe an inch and a half in diameter. Growing on it were these little masses of rising red-brown tubes, at the most an inch high; I'd never seen anything like it before. In my mushroom book, I found what I think it an identification: Chocolate Tube Slime. I don't know why it is called a slime; it seems closer to the coral shaped mushrooms and is quite beautiful.

All the previous treasures are delights to the eye, but the wild strawberry, now fruiting abundantly in the fields is also a taste treat. They are so very small that the eating is just a light touch on the tongue, a very different experience from a big juicy bite into a local cultivated strawberry, but delicious nonetheless.


  1. I love the mushrooms in that first image. No way to experience those willowy stems but on your knees or tummy. Mark did a whole photo series of that chocolate tube slime but i don't think we ever ran them as a blog post.

  2. Small treasures indeed...brought into clarity and importance through your camera's eye. Love the comment about the forms enlarged in the world of Pandora...and wild strawberries...makes me want to go gather some myself.

  3. Nice, Altoon! Top mushroom could be one of several possibilities, so I won't guess -- but the teeny one in the third photo is Pinwheel Marasmius. And those orange ones are the really cute Eyelash Cups -- if you get really close you can see the fringe of black "eyelashes" around the edges. And the fruiting Chocolate Tube Slime is great. The fruiting bodies of mushrooms are ephemeral, but they come out of an extensive network of long-lived mycelia, which go through the leaf litter and rotting wood. Slime molds are truly short lived, starting out as something like amoebae and then getting organized to make spores, all in a few days. Then poof! All gone.

  4. thanks for the comments, Ms. Wis. and Maggie.
    and Susan, thanks as always for the identification of things I cannot name. I had no idea that the Chocolate Tube Slime I found was its fruiting body, which makes it even more fascinating. Next time I go in the woods I'm going to look for the eyelashes of those Eyelash Cups.