The Mushrooms Come

In fall, the woods smells of . . . well, mold. Organic matter droops and falls, becoming earth. Recycling itself, so to speak. And what helps this process more than anything else? Fungus, of course! Yes, in fall, there is a fungus amongus . . . many, many fungi, actually, doing their slow, steady job of decomposition.


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The first and most startling fungus I notice is the moon-like Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea—such a great name), the size of a soccer ball at the edge of the forest. Apparently one can eat this mushroom, and they say it tastes like tofu or melted cheese when cooked. It would be a big (gigantic) meal. I, myself, have not yet been brave enough to try it.


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Equally startling but much, much smaller, are these tiny orange mushrooms (Red Chanterelle, I think?) that sprout among the green moss like jewels.


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Smaller versions of puffballs dot many logs and even trees . . . and I always take the opportunity to gently swat them, eliciting a sulfurous cloud of spores.


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Some fungi have a gift for placing themselves dramatically, like this yin-yang-centered fungus, which I haven’t yet identified.


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Some people (I’m not naming any names) wander through parks in major European cities (like Madrid), and take photos of . . . mushrooms? Growing sideways out of trees?


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A wonderful russet shelf fungus.


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On this drizzly day, here are some half-inch-sized white stalagtite fungus (just made up this name) on a dead sumac, amidst the green dripping trees . . .


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. . . and also up close. 


Fairytale fungus. Just doing its job. But looking mysteriously spectacular at the same time.

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