August 12, 2021

Mushrooms: Wonders of the Woods

"One shouldn't go to the woods looking for something, but rather to see what is there." John Cage

It was thrilling to spot this mass of glowing chanterelles, loudly announcing their emergence. Although they often show up in this spot, it's rarely this many. As different from the composer and mushroom expert John Cage, I know very little about mushrooms; these are the only ones I will eat, along with lawn puffballs. I generally approach mushrooms as an aesthetic, rather than culinary, experience, admiring their widely varying colors and shapes. And wow. this year there is an embarrassment of riches in the woods. After a hot, dry spring, it rained and rained and rained in July, which has encouraged a plethora of species, many of which I've never seen before. 

My chanterelle pizza

I've tried to identify some of the mushrooms I've photographed, using my Audubon guide, but haven't always succeeded. I've seen estimates of 10,000 species of mushrooms, which are the fruiting body of a fungus, and 120,000 fungi. So, I may be forgiven for not knowing even common ones. But, I think this is a Parasol mushroom. It stood out, noticeably tall and white, in the distance on the path; it was about 8 inches tall. I photographed this on August 5th; a couple of days later the cap had spread out into a flat disk, around 6 inches wide. A couple of days after that, I saw it covered with a fine hairy fungus of some sort; and as I write this on August 11, the cap has collapsed into a brown decaying form. 

"Rockland County, where Stony Point is located, abounds in mushrooms of all varieties. The more you know them, the less sure you feel about identifying them. Each one is itself. Each mushroom is what it is—its own center. It's useless to pretend to know mushrooms. They escape your erudition." John Cage


I love seeing red mushrooms. The color is so brilliant against the dun-colored forest floor. They demand attention.

We might think we are underwater when seeing coral mushrooms. How did this similarity happen?

In my mushroom book, this species, or similar, previously unknown to me, is grouped with Coral-like mushrooms. 

And, I'd never seen, or noticed, this cup-shaped mushroom, perhaps because of its dark color, or because it grows so close to the ground. 

It's a treat to see these small, shiny, jelly-like fungi. I think they're Orange jelly, but I wish they were Witches' Butter, because I love the name; Witches' butter, though, are yellow in color. 

I have zero idea what these tiny mushrooms are; some kind of club mushroom I suppose, new to me. They're kind of wonderful, with their groupings of erect forms with rounded tops. 

This grand specimen, about 10 inches across, lives in the same spot each year, growing on underground wood. I assume that it's a polypore of some sort; I admire its deep reddish color and rippling, overlapping forms. 

Here's a beautiful warm gray cap on a mushroom, an unusual color. It's possible that it's a Grey Spotted amanita, as a youngster, but the photos I've seen online don't look like this. The scales and veil on the stem mark it as an amanita (maybe).  

A bolete for sure. They are beautiful mushrooms, with elegant caps and stems, and pores instead of gills under their caps. They are remarkable plentiful in my near woods this summer. Many of them are edible, but since some are not, I won't cook them.

When I saw these two mushrooms, boletes, side by side in the woods, I kept exclaiming "holy mackerel! holy mackerel!" (For some reason stronger language didn't leave my mouth.) Why? because they're HUGE: the larger one was 8 inches across, and I'd never seen anything like it; nothing so large except for polypores. They'd been knocked over, so I brought them home to photograph them. Under the pores was a soft white spongy layer. How many of my readers will tell me I should have cooked these? or maybe not. 

Another exciting find, from very large to very small. These Velvety earth tongues were growing on a pile of logs that I've seen decay over the years; the logs are now covered with teeny orange mushrooms, some small red ones, mosses, and lichens. These are another mushroom I've never seen before, and it's surprising to me how thrilled I feel when seeing something new. They are only about an inch and a half high, which gives you an idea of how tiny the orange mushrooms are. I encourage readers to click on the images to enlarge them, to see these marvels in more detail. I'd like to close with another quote from John Cage, which expresses beautifully the love due to mushrooms:
"What permits us to love one another and the earth we inhabit is that we and it are impermanent. We obsolesce. Life's everlasting. Individuals aren't. A mushroom lasts for only a very short time. Often I go in the woods thinking after all these years I ought finally to be bored with fungi. But coming upon just any mushroom in good condition, I lose my mind all over again. Supreme good fortune: we're both alive!" 


1 comment:

  1. So interesting, as always. . . including the wonderful quotes from John Cage.