A Sign of Time

This is a clock. It is marking the slow demise of an old poplar.

Many of the trees in our woods sport visible signs of inner decay and rot — firm, bracket-shaped fungi growing on their trunks.

Some tree fungi live only one season. This one is a perennial, adding new “rings” each year. It will continue to do this even after the tree has died.

The “shelves” or brackets are the fruiting part of the plant, producing air-borne spores some of which may infect other trees. The main part of the fungus is invisible. The “roots” (mycelia) grow throughout the inside of the tree. Fungi can’t produce their own food but rely instead on the energy stored in plants that do, like trees.

Bracket fungus
Bracket or shelf fungus on poplar

These fungi are vital to a healthy forest. They break down dying and dead trees, recycling the nutrients and minerals back into the soil to be used, perhaps, by new trees. This dissolution may take decades or a century or more.

A sign of time.

And the Winner is …

If they gave out gold medals for mushrooms, the award — at least in our woods — would go to this fab fungus. I found it growing alongside a rotting poplar.

Most mushrooms are diminutive and except for odd growth forms or striking colours don’t really shout Here I Am! Not this one. Bright white and the size of a dinner plate, there’s little chance you’d miss it.

Here’s to big and bold.

Best guess? Giant leucopax   Leucopaxillus giganteus  (aka Clitocybe gigantea)

In Search of Fungi

Just Add Water featured mushrooms that sprang up following our recent heavy rains.

Before the woods dried out I sought them out again. I was not disappointed.

I found them growing along animal trails, in thick feather moss, on rotting wood, in squirrel middens — tall, short, thin, thick, solitary and bunched together. Such an array.

These intriguing fungi spend their lives underground. For brief moments they pop up into the world of light, produce spores, then retreat again to darkness. If we’re lucky we catch a glimpse of this wonder.

P.S. The fungi in the featured image were growing on a rotting branch. I turned it upwards to take this photo — then carefully replaced it back in its original position. Let’s walk lightly with as little disruption as possible.