While working outside on Saturday, I decided to take a break and venture into the woods in my backyard. I took my camera along because the sun was shining, and I felt like taking photos of leaves changing colors. However, during this little journey, I kept coming across mushrooms on decaying wood pieces or clinging onto the side of living trees. My focus was redirected from the lack of good fall foliage colors this year to the abundance of fungi feasting on various surfaces in the woodlands.
These clinging to this tree appear to be shelf fungi. Shelf fungi don’t have gills and drop spores from the bottom of their fruiting body. On typical mushrooms, the cap has gills on the underside. I’m not sure what the blob is on the left of this tree in the photo above, but it reminded me of algae. This wasn’t the only spot where I spotted two types of structures on one piece of wood or on a tree. It appears the fungi were thriving right now in the woods. Perhaps because we had warm temps followed by cool, I’m not sure but I started to enjoy seeing them and my curiosity perked. I keep seeking out more.
Here’s an interesting fuzzy white one I found on a wooden trellis once made to have plants vine up. It has been sitting in a shady corner with no attention, and the wood has begun to decay. Right below this white one, I saw several more that looked a bit like oysters as I zoomed up closer with the camera lens. The patterns were rather pretty, repeating down the base of the tree branch. I wondered if these were shelf fungi too, but not having an expertise in mushrooms, I just keep taking photos and moving along to other sightings.
Most folks know fungi are not plants. They don’t have chlorophyll like plants do, so they can’t harvest sunlight for energy to make their own food. They grow, live and serve different ways in our environnment. Some by feeding, getting their nutrients, on decomposing organic matter. Other fungi are parasites, by taking their energy from living plant cells. And some serve a symbiotic relationship, like the mycorrhizal mushrooms, which penetrate the roots of trees and help the roots by extending filaments around and outward into the soil. This helps to increase the surface area for the roots, resulting in better absorbtion, and the ability to extract nutrients from the soil. At the same time, the tree’s roots serve the fungi by giving them needed energy. They feed off each other in other words. And this can be a good thing because it helps a tree growing in poor soil to survive.
But as far as humans eating mushrooms, as most know, it is not a good idea to try unless you are an expert at recognizing mushrooms, or you are with a proven expert on your woodland journey. As for myself, I had no interest whatsoever in eating mushrooms, just photographing them.
When I exited the woods and told my husband I saw lots of mushrooms, he replied with, “Mushrooms scare me.” I started to laugh, because it sounded comical, as I pictured him running away from a giant mushroom. But we know he meant many are potent enough to kill or at least make you very ill.
I remember seeing on t.v. last year a guy decided to just eat some mushrooms growing in his yard. He survived, but he surely regretted the pain and embarrassment. There are no easy ways to correctly identify poisonous mushrooms other than having a knowledgeable mycologist, a scientist who studies fungi, with you. But if you happen to encounter someone who does and gets ill, save any remaining pieces and call 911 or head to the emergency room! Know where the mushroom was growing and it’s features, the size, color, etc. Hopefully you won’t ever have to do this, but good to know for reference.
I even came across a few puffballs on my way out of the wooded area. You know the ones found on the ground that are round and when you stomp on them, they puff out a burst of cloudy material – its cloud of spores. I always did that as a kid, and couldn’t resist the urge to do that again when I spotted those a couple times. These mushrooms are a species of Schleroderma. And I saw them more on the lawn parts of my walk versus in the deep, wet woodland areas.
Eventually, I did see some yellow foliage in the woods and took this snapshot from the base of a white birch tree. There isn’t much color now which is a bit of a disappointment, but then again, maybe I wouldn’t have seen all the fungi feasting in my backyard woodland areas this time of year.