Image #307 – Blue Velvet Fungi

Blue Velvet Fungi
Blue Velvet Fungi

Still in the Carolina mountains but the days are slipping away. Summer officially ends tomorrow. The leaves are starting to change color and litter my yard.  Soon I will join the birds in heading south.

My pictures this season, like my posts, have been sketchy at best. Today’s offering is a photo that was taken a month ago and sat in the camera, patiently waiting. It is Blue Velvet Fungi that I unearthed while moving some branches. It was in full bloom, an absolutely delicious shade of blue that this photo barely captures.  The next shot gives you a close-up.

Blue Velvet Fungi - Closeup
Blue Velvet Fungi – Closeup

Amazing nature…it doesn’t care about pictures, blog posts, newsletters, speeches or meetings.  It simply does what it does best…astound. ❧

Image #306 – Color of the Day – Banana Caterpillar

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A Banana Caterpillar

My friend Joe Bruneau likes to post “Today’s Color” on his Facebook account.  Today’s color is banana and I thought that was interesting since I found this almost banana-colored caterpillar on my deck rail this morning.  I think this is his face but for all I know he could be mooning all of us.  😀    ❦

Images 302-304 Blue and Orange Mushrooms

Have I mentioned that I live in a rain forest?  Most people think of rain forests as tropical, mainly in places like Brazil and Africa.  But the Nantahala Forest, where my home is located in Franklin, NC, is close to being a temperate rain forest (more than 55 inches of precipitation annually and a mean temperature of 39º to 54º F).  It is very damp at times and this is one of them.  You can almost wring the moisture from the air and I have found myself tapping the hygrometer dial on my weather station, convinced it must be stuck on 100%.  It isn’t.

But for this mushroom loving gal this is THE place to be. The ‘shrooms are popping up everywhere, in a rainbow of colors and shapes. I have taken to walking early in the a.m. to see what emerged overnight.  And while many may be termed mundane as far as mushrooms go, others are spectacular.

Take this blue mushroom.  It is, I think, an Anise-scented Clitocybe but, honestly, it is so hard to know when the field guide gives you this: “dingy green to bluish-green,  sometimes blue or nearly white”.  Well, that’s a lot of latitude.

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The shape seems right. I never thought to check its scent and by the time I had read the field guide and returned to check its scent it was gone. The field guide did mention it was edible and we have many fat squirrels and chipmunks around here.

Here is a photograph of its underside. The gills were spectacular in the morning light.

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And if blue mushrooms are too dull for you check out these beauties.

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They are no taller than a dime and they must not taste very good because they have been very long lasting. They are, I believe, Orange Mycena (Mycena leaiana). Once again our friends at Wikipedia provide some fascinating details.

Mycena leaiana, commonly known as the orange mycena or Lea’s mycena, is a North American species of saprobic fungi in the genus Mycena, family Tricholomataceae. Characterized by their bright orange caps and stalks and reddish-orange gill edges, they usually grow in dense clusters on deciduous logs. The pigment responsible for the orange color in this species has antibiotic properties.

That last sentence caught my eye. Another site I visited while learning about rainforests taught me that 1 in 4 ingredients in our medicines are derived from rainforest plants.  We really need to stop destroying them. According to one site, an area of a rainforest the size of a football field is being destroyed each second.  ❧

 

Image #300 – In Its Prime

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An Amanita?

Everything has a prime…that time in the life cycle when all things “click.”  For humans the “prime” is elusive. Counter-intuitively, it seems there can be multiple “primes” when a life cycle spans more than six decades.  But for the mushroom on my hillside in North Carolina time is short and I believe I captured a Prime moment.

I snapped this picture yesterday. The ‘shroom almost yelled out to me.  It was poised, center-stage, in a brilliantly lit patch of decay.  By the time I fetched my camera the key-light had moved on but the mushroom was still an incredibly powerful presence.  Strong and vibrant, reaching for the sky.  It is, I think, some form of Amanita. When I returned today it seemed shriveled.  It had flattened out and something had nibbled on it.  My forest friends eat hearty in the summer, with all manner of mushrooms available along with berries and new buds.  Most mornings I awake to find deer munching on the apples from my trees. I don’t mind. There are plenty of apples and the only inconvenience is that the deer take all the low-hanging fruit so I must work harder to get the fruit that is left.  Working harder makes me realize I have passed my prime…at least my 6th decade prime…or so I think today.

I have been here for a week and have an almost visceral feeling of decompression. This small patch of land on Fawn Hill is a haven, a place to relax and enjoy just the being of life…however long that may be. ❧

 

 

Images# 290-294 – Tulip Poplar

Tulip Poplar 2015 004Discoveries are common place on Fawn Hill.  I had always assumed the tall trees along the driveway were poplars but this year I have the good fortune to be here as they bloom and, as you can see, the blooms are lovely. I thought they must be tulip poplars which they are but now I have learned they are not poplars at all.

Liriodendron tulipifera, the tulip tree, is actually a member of the magnolia family and these two are prime specimens. Tulip Poplar 2015 002 Our friends at Wikipedia have once again provided a wealth of information.   I was relieved to learn they are not poplars which seem to have a nasty habit of becoming very tall and then rotting out from the inside.

But these are tulip trees and are prized lumber. They were used by the Indians for dugout canoes and its lumber has been called Canoewood.  According to Wikipedia it is one “of the largest and most valuable hardwoods of eastern North America.”  It can grow to a height of 190 feet!  Ours would seem to be about 60 feet. The average size is around 70 feet.  The birds enjoy their seeds and humans can fall in love with their blossoms.  ❧

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Image #289 – Trillium

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Trillium are part of the lily order but have their own family.  And that is no surprise because, as it happens, there are many different varieties that grow across the globe.  I was unfamiliar with it until we acquired the Fawn Hill property.  On our little strand of land we have dozens of pink trillium which, officially speaking, are Trillium catesbaei, or Catesby trillium.  There are quite a few more this year than I remember from the past two seasons that we have enjoyed this place.  Whether that is due to our clearing of overgrowth or perfect growing conditions I don’t know.

As a member of the lily order they grow from rhizomes.  This is great news since propagation will take care of itself. In the picture below you can count at least seven in a relatively small patch of land. Most of ours are pink although there are some white and one or two purple varities.

They are cheery beings and welcome on Fawn Hill. ✦

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Images #288-289 – Lady Slippers

When I was a child growing up in Massachusetts, thereSAMSUNG CSC seemed no shortage of Lady Slippers; that delicate wild orchid that is at once beautifully dainty and profoundly evocative. They are of the subfamily Cypripedioideae and grace most of the continents.  According to Wikipedia:

The subfamily Cypripedioideae is monophyletic and consists of five genera. The Cypripedium genus is found across much of North America, as well as in parts of Europe and Asia. The state flower of Minnesota is the showy lady’s slipper (Cypripedium reginae). The pink lady’s slipper is also the official provincial flower of the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island.

My sister and I recall them differently. She recalls them being in the woods behind her friend’s house and I recall them being in the woods behind our house, the distinction being that we moved to a big house that had acres of woods behind it just before my sister went off to boarding school. I remember ripping them from the ground and bringing them home to my mother. She rarely scolded us but she did suggest, in that way she had, that I simply leave them be.  After we moved to Florida, when I was 12-years old I rarely saw a Lady Slipper again. I had heard (incorrectly) that they were endangered.  So, you can imagine my delight when I discovered two(!) Lady Slippers on the hillside at Fawn Hill in North Carolina.

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Lady Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) on the hillside at Fawn Hill.

This will be our third summer at Fawn Hill and every year brings more surprises.  In a few days we are having some trees removed, weed trees mainly, opportunists that have grabbed at a chance to thrive, ironically in the absence of care.  As we clear away more and more of this over-growth we uncover a plan. The woman who first owned this land and lived here for more than a decade was a gardener and she installed some beautiful plantings.  Daffodils and tulips have popped up, peonies seem abundant, and azalea bushes are emerging from what tried, very hard, to become forest.  What will surprise us when the weed trees are gone and more light reaches the bank of land behind the house?  Stay tuned.  ✦

A Lady Slipper prepares to bloom.
A Lady Slipper prepares to bloom.

 

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