Mushrooms & Lichens After Drought

Last summer it rained nearly every day followed by a rather spectacular crop of mushrooms popping up in Menotomy Rocks Park.

This year the rains have started again after a prolonged draught. I came across yellow and orange Chicken of the woods brackets where I found them last year. And there were a few other interesting fungi, mostly in shades of white, tan and brown. As the season is not yet over, I may share additional examples below.



































Chicken of the Woods: A Remarkable Mushroom

I am told that besides tasting rather like lemony chicken with a great deal of protein, chicken of the woods also has many health and medicinal benefits. Although it is both hard to miss and relatively easy to identify, as with all mushrooms growing in the wild, it is best to seek expert guidance on what is safe to eat and to prepare them carefully before eating them.

With so little rain this past summer, I did not expect to find the amazing mushrooms that had sprung up in Menotomy Rocks Park last fall. But my timing was good to capture a number of images of these colorful chicken of the woods fruiting bodies before they were taken by eager foragers.










The series below follows the central protrusion as it evolved before someone cut parts of it and what remained deteriorated.







A Bumper Crop of Edible Mushrooms

When I was out taking mushroom photos, I came across two people from Europe with a basket full of hen of the woods as well as a bag of honey mushrooms, both gathered from the bases of oaks. I learned the number of edible mushrooms each person can collect is limited where they come from, but here, where there are no such limits, they had gathered so many they would need to give some away.

They explained that the best way to learn which mushrooms are safe to eat is to go out with an expert local guide. But books and online resources (like this one) can be helpful.

In addition to being eaten as food and medicine, mushrooms can have profound cultural significance. Those with psychotropic properties are used in healing rituals. The Maya carved wonderful anthropomorphic mushroom stones, and a jade pendant bears witness to the significance the Chinese place on mushrooms use in traditional medicine.

Fungi support the health of forests and can survive fire. They have been used to control insect pests and to clean up plastic and organic waste. No doubt our appreciation for fungi will increase as we learn more about what they can do.

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. In the last photo below, I was able to capture spores falling from a cluster.

For those interested in learning more, Merlin Sheldrake’s, Entangled Life; How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures seems destined to become a modern classic with its vivid descriptions and wonderful stories. His ability to convey his appreciation of the finely tuned relationships in the network of life that supports us all seems highly relevant in these times when that understanding is so badly needed.