Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Friends finding fungi
My trip to the woods, the last weekend of March was for the purpose of helping a friend find fungi for her Mycology class. Another friend joined us and we three began our search near the parking area of the Blue Ridge Tract. Our first find was an Earth Star. Initially, I thought it was a regular little puff ball. After looking closer, I noticed the star shape at the base of the tan ball. This one was decaying but was, nevertheless, very interesting to examine. A remark was made about the name and the thought of a young hippie changing her name to “Earth Star” and naming her first born “Comet” came to mind. I thought it best not to share that brain blip and kept it for now.
The Earth Star, related to puffballs, is in the group of fungi called Gasteromycetes, or “stomach fungi”. The fruiting body is stomach-shaped and filled with dry spores. To demonstrate that to ourselves, I squeezed the sides of the round sack sitting atop the star to see if any spores were still inside. Now, I wondered if Rachel could have heard the “puff” as the spores came flying out.
As we walked on down the trail, we passed coltsfoot with flower heads freshly opening, a welcome sign that spring has arrived. We found Eastern Tent Caterpillar egg cases, a slug, and a good variety of fungi on the dead logs. Overhead a Red-shouldered Hawk called, “"Kee-yer, Kee-yer", a common sound on this ridge.
Our last fungus was a cluster of Lattice Puffballs, Calostoma lutescones, from the Greek kallos “beauty” and stoma, meaning “mouth”. This one always reminds me of Audry II from the movie “Little Shop of Horrors” because of its pursed red lips. Instead of crying, “Feed me, feed me!” it only puffs spores in you face when squeezed or raindrops hit the round sack. Pulling back the moist musky leaves, the lacy stalk was exposed along with traces of the mycelium running underground, connecting each puffball to the other. I wonder, what is it that connects the three of us together? Our thoughts, experiences, life-history, or is it more elemental like the very air we breathe?
Walking back up the hill, we heard two Barred Owls calling to each other, “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all?” I now realize that as we stood quietly focused, sharing the moment listening to the owl call, that sound bound us together more than anything we had seen that morning, linking us to the moment, each other, and the web of life. What a fine day I had finding fungi with friends.
The photos were all taken by me. Be sure to click on the photos to make them larger. You can find more photos mushrooms that I have taken at: http://adventuresinnature.shutterfly.com/