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)

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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.

Unearthed

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.