Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Newport News Park (10/12/2014)

 It was a damp cool weekend; and therefore great for some yard work.  We planted some perennial bushes and started noticing a lot of mushrooms popping up out of the ground.  Subsequently, we decided to go for a walk in the woods behind our house.  We soon were awestruck by the number of mushrooms everywhere.  So at the encouragement of my wife, it was time to break the phone out and start shooting some pictures of them.  About 5 years ago I did a whole series of mushroom pictures, so I am no stranger of walking through the woods braving ticks and taking close-ups of these wonderful guys.

We counted probably more than 20 different species ranging from very minute ones to huge mushrooms; and from eatable (chanterelles) to outright poisonous mushrooms.  No I do not dare to harvest anyone of them, since misidentification can prove deadly.  I just admire the heck out of them.  Having studied commercial mushroom growing when I was young, I love seeing them come up out of the ground for their day or sometimes hours of glory.  Before you get these great, what we call, fruiting bodies, mushrooms are nothing else but mold threads in the soil, that when conditions are ripe, come together as a group and all the sudden pop up out of the ground in these and interesting forms.  For example the eatable “hen of the woods” looks more like a white flower (gardenia) that has fallen on the ground.

Mushrooms help in the breakdown of organic matter in the soil, and a lot of mushrooms are micorrhizal, in other words they live on roots in a symbiotic relationship.  The roots supply the fungi (mold) with nutrients like sugar, and the molds help with the uptake of water and fertilizer by the roots.  In essence they scratch the root’s back and the roots scratch theirs.  So the soil and many plants need these fungi. 

Well, Sunday I took many photographs and here are two of the really poisonous ones.  I identified the reddish mushroom on the left as the “big laughing Gym”.  It is tall and has a circumference of about a foot.  That mushroom is hallucinogenic and according to my mushroom book causes “irrational laughing.”  The white mushrooms are as big as dinner plates, and are named “destroying angles”.  They are deadly when consumed; according to Wikipedia more than half the deaths from mushroom poisoning are caused by this mushroom; although it is a micorrhizal mushroom and really useful and important for plants.  An interesting world we live in indeed.  Although some are deadly to us, they are useful and essential for others, in particular plants. It was a fun walk through the woods and just great to see them all out.

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