Mushrooms!

Here in Western North Carolina it has been a wet summer. Lots of rain and damp morning fogs makes for a soggy environment. I’m in the Nantahala Forest and, according to Wikipedia,

The word “Nantahala” is a Cherokee word meaning “Land of the Noonday Sun”. The name is appropriate as, in some spots, the sun only reaches the floors of the deep gorges of the forest when high overhead at midday.

Well, there are parts of my small plot that stay shady and damp most of the day and that leads to some great mushrooming. I’ve often written about NC mushrooms. My neighbors Bonnie and Renee love to harvest the chanterelles and they are having a good harvest year.

But smaller critters like mushrooms too. The accompanying photo is a scene I have often stumbled upon and wanted to record but the angle has never been quite right to tell the story. Something — squirrel, chipmunk, vole, — really enjoyed this small mushroom which, I think, is a Beechwood Sickener (Russula mairei). From the name you would think it is poisonous but it is edible and, according to my mushroom book, “very hot when tasted.”  That might explain why the ‘shroom was devoured over two days.

I have no interest in tasting the Beechwood Sickener. I’ve never been very experimental when it comes to food. And we all know some mushrooms are really bad for you. As the saying goes, “All mushrooms are edible, but some only once in a lifetime.”  ❧

 

Apres le deluge – Images #308-310

Most people are aware of the horrific rains that we have endured here in the Carolinas.  I am in Western North Carolina at about 2,ooo feet elevation so most of what falls here heads downhill…towards South Carolina.  Poor South Carolina.  Anyone who has watched the news in recent days knows the heartache that is being endured in the Palmetto State after a flood of Biblical proportions.  But here in North Carolina things are drying out and the sun has shown for two days. It has been wonderful.

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Little Helmets

The return of the sun has encouraged my mushroom friends to emerge.  The first were these helmet-style little guys who popped up at the base of my hickory maple.

I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the photos and saw another little one emerging under the bark.

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Peek-a-boo!

 

Later in the day I climbed the ridge behind the house and found this soldier pushing its way up through the pine straw and perfectly lit in the setting light of the day. Things are drying out, life goes on. ❧

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At the end of a sunny day.

 

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. ❧

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 #284 – Cinnabar Cort


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It is, I think, a Cinnabar Cort (Cortinarius cinnabarinus) mushroom.  About 2″ in height, it was one of many in the woods at Myakka River State Park this week.   About two years ago it was almost impossible to find mushrooms at Myakka. The feral pig population was decimating the population of mushrooms and other edibles. Their destructive pattern of routing through the soil for anything edible was causing great damage to the Park and at last the Park Service authorized a culling of  pigs and the hunters did their work. The Park is infinitely healthier for their efforts.

The Cinnabar Cort is relatively common throughout Florida and I have seen numerous stands in many different places.  From above it would be easy to overlook except for its rich deep color.

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I had never done any macro work with this type of mushroom and was very pleased with the images. I will re-visit the Cinnabar again and promise to share.  ❧

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