Rotten to the Core

Our woods are old. Many of the spruce have celebrated more than 150 summers. Poplar don’t live nearly that long and many now are showing their age, like this balsam poplar sprouting a hefty load of fungi.

Fungi on dying balsam poplar

Unlike the hard, woody bracket fungi that also grow on tree trunks, these gilled mushrooms are soft and fleshy. By the time these spore-producing parts appear, the inside of the tree is well-rotted — the mushroom “roots” (mycelia) have spread through the trunk, digesting the wood.

Underside view

While the mushroom is feeding on the tree, insects begin feeding on the mushroom. Other insects feed on them. Cycles within cycles.

Many insects live among the gills

A wonderment of life in the woods.

Oyster mushroom (?)   Pleurotus ostreatus