Mushrooms After Drought

Last summer it rained nearly every day. That resulted in a rather spectacular crop of mushrooms in Menotomy Rocks Park and I had a great deal of fun capturing their forms and colors using my super macro camera.

After a very dry summer this year, fall rains have started again. The reliable orange and yellow bracket fungi, Chicken of the woods, did not disappoint. I noticed a few other mushrooms, mostly in shades of white, tan and brown. Perhaps the mushroom season is just getting a late start. If so, I may add additional mushroom closeups below.





















Chicken of the Woods: A Remarkable Mushroom

Besides tasting like lemony chicken with a great deal of protein, chicken of the woods has many health and medicinal benefits. It is both hard to miss and relatively easy to identify but as with all mushrooms growing in the wild, it is best to seek expert guidance and to prepare them carefully.

With so little rain this year, I did not expect to find the variety of amazing mushrooms that sprung up all over the place in Menotomy Rocks Park last fall. But I was able to capture photos of several emerging clusters of chicken of the woods mushrooms before they were taken by foragers.












The last photos below follow a new protrusion as it evolved over the course of several days. Someone cut off its front edge before it became quite dry.







A Bumper Crop of Edible Mushrooms

When I was out taking mushroom photos, I came across two people with a basket full of hen of the woods as well as a bag of honey mushrooms they had gathered from the base of oaks. They told me that the number of edible mushrooms you can collect in Europe is limited so as to leave some for others. Here there are no such limits and they had gathered so many mushrooms they would need to give some away. As they explained, the best way to learn which are safe to eat is to go out with an expert local guide, although books and online resources (like this one) can be helpful.

Like many, I find fungi’s beautiful diversity and complexity fascinating. In addition to their use as food and medicine, mushrooms can have profound cultural significance. Those with psychotropic properties are used in healing rituals. A lovely jade pendant (below) bears witness to the significance the Chinese place mushrooms that play an important role in traditional medicine. The Maya carved wonderful anthropomorphic mushroom stones.

Fungi support the health of forests in a variety of ways. They can survive fire and have been used to control insect pests and to clean up plastic and organic waste. No doubt our appreciation for what fungi do for us will increase as we learn more about their many roles in various ecosystems.

Mushrooms After Rain

Nature is constantly shifting and not just with the normal seasonal changes these days. This early fall, I would certainly welcome some quiet green time on my morning walks in Menotomy Rocks Park (Arlington, Massachusetts, USA), but nature had its own ideas. After abundant rain all summer, amazing fungi were popping up everywhere and calling out to have their portraits taken.

I sometimes moved into contorted positions to capture the fascinating diversity up close, and in one particularly lucky shot, spores falling from a cluster (last photo below). My walks extended to two or more hours and I was off on another adventure, discovering how important fungi are to us as well as to so many other forms of life on this planet.