I found this odd object growing in a midden at the base of a spruce tree.
A midden? It’s a tree squirrel’s go-to spot for just about everything: winter den, pantry, kitchen, garbage dump.
Middens pass down to successive generations, so as years go by the detritus piles up — old cones, new cones, twigs, spruce needles, small bones.
At times stuff begins to grow in the rubble.
That’s where I found them: Two white “things” lying on the midden. It took me a minute to puzzle them out.
Of course! I was looking at the remains of dried puffballs. Fungi. Mushrooms.
The grey wrinkled “head” was the actual puffball — the spongy little thing that squirts out a cloud of mushroom “seeds” (spores) when you touch a ripe one.
The white part — the “shoulder pads” on these little guys — is the part you never see. It develops from a spore. Microscopic at first these tiny threads grow and accumulate until finally the mass is large enough to see.
If you know where to look. Until now I never have.
Looking more carefully I spotted a single puffball, still embedded in the midden. A slight tug and up the whole thing came: head, neck and shoulders.
Nature always has something up her sleeve. Some times I’m smart enough to notice.