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 will add additional examples below.
I am told that besides tasting rather like lemony chicken with a great deal of protein, chicken of the woods also has many health benefits. Although hard to miss and relatively easy to identify, as with all mushrooms growing in the wild, it is best to seek expert guidance on which are safe to eat and to prepare them carefully. And it is possible for certain people to be allergic to chicken of the woods and other mushrooms, so care is needed when eating them for the first time.
With so little rain last summer, I did not expect an abundance of amazing mushrooms like I came across last fall in Menotomy Rocks Park. But, I came across this colorful cluster the day before it was taken by eager foragers.
The series below follows the central protrusion as it evolved before someone cut parts of it and what remained dried out.
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 (the last photo below) bears witness to the significance the Chinese place on mushrooms and their 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.
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, the lighting was perfect to capture falling spores.
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 seems highly relevant in our times when that understanding is so badly needed.