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



A Fluorish of Fungi

It is a phenomenal summer for mushrooms. Warm temperatures and near-daily rain have produced more fungi than I’ve ever seen.

These are not your white fairy-ring-in-the-lawn mushrooms. The woods are filled with a stunning display of colours, shapes and sizes — and each trip among the trees reveals new ones I hadn’t seen earlier.

Spectacular? Indeed!

Just Add Water

Earth-soaking rains

Transform parched soil.

Now in damp stillness

Caps and stems



pop up

Dot the forest duff

Like tiny lights or parasols or stools for tired toads.

Mushroom mania.


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.