Fall Fungus

Mushrooms are up there for me, on the list of wondrous things in nature. Last year we had a rainy late summer, and I saw so many colorful mushrooms in the following months. It can be a bit daunting to get into identification, knowing there are thousands of species, and if you’re thinking of eating them, it’s downright terrifying.

Still, I’m learning, and I went on a couple of mushroom walks this fall with experts, and next year I think I’ll join a local mycology group. It’s called COMA (ha), and it’s the Connecticut-Westchester Mycological Association. They do walks every weekend, spring through fall. It seems like more of them are focused on foraging, but it’s all good info.

It’s pretty clear why they call this one turkey tail
Some kind of yellow jelly fungus; if you know the species, let me know!
An enormous chicken of the woods I found growing a few minutes from my door, in Katonah Memorial Park. No, I did not eat it, but this is one that lots of people forage for and eat.

Sometimes when looking for fungus, you end up finding slime mold, which is also fun. They used to be considered fungi, but are now classified as a type of amoeba. They are single-celled, but can get together to form a larger organism that can do exciting things like reproduce. One that I’ve recently gotten to know has the charming name of wolf’s milk, or toothpaste slime mold. A few weeks ago I was leading some second graders on a nature walk and showed them the puffy pinkish-orange blobs growing on a log. I popped one to show the fluorescent liquid inside, and it splattered orange spots all over my shirt. Some of the kids were altogether too concerned about whether it was going to stain. It’s nature, kids! It’s ok to get dirty. Get out there and pop some slime molds!

Wolf’s milk slime mold

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