My trail was in pretty good shape today, no fallen trees, little litter. No mosquitoes, either, which amazed me some, since the path passes through deep-shaded woods that lie close to water. The declining population of biting bugs is certainly one of the season's changes I welcome.
I did find strewn beer cans and candy wrappers when my trail led down toward the water's edge, but the loveliness of the landscape there helped to compensate me for the rage I felt toward those who would sully this splendid place.
The seed heads of Buttonbush are just as handsome, in their own rosy way, as the white pincushion flower heads had been in midsummer.
Scarlet Smartweed just keeps getting prettier as its flower stalk grows longer.
Even these fishbones took on a kind of pearlescent beauty, stripped as they were of any offending flesh, revealing their elegant structure.
And oh, the mushrooms! Mushrooms of every shape and size and color! Here's a gallery of some of the more interesting ones I found along my trail today.
This, I believe, is a budding Amanita muscaria, also known as Fly Agaric. This mushroom can also be red, but red or yellow, it looks like the classic mushroom of fairy tales. (Update: I heard from a friend suggesting this might rather be A. flavoconia because of its yellowish stalk. The stalks of A. muscaria are snowy white, whether the caps are red or yellow.)
Here's a whole log-full of Scaly Pholiota (Pholiota squarrosa), whose toasty-brown scaly puffs remind me of coconut macaroons.
This photo doesn't show the snowy-white stalks that support these rich-red Russulas (Russula emetica) and are diagnostic for this species. There's something tender about the way these two lean into each other, like a loving couple.
Could this be a Yellow Russula (Russula claroflava)? I really don't know, because to properly identify a mushroom you have to dismantle it, noting how gills are attached and making spore prints and so forth. But I didn't want to disassemble this lovely little tableau, with the glossy Pipsissewa leaves matching the shine of the mushroom cap, and the frosted pine cone arranged just so, as if some floral designer had put this scene together.
Of all the lovely fungi I saw today, this beautiful arrangement takes the prize. Too bad those intensely orange gilled mushrooms (species unknown to me) can't be preserved, as the Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) shelf fungus can. Wouldn't this make a spectacular Thanksgiving decoration?
Update: Ed Miller's son Nick has suggested that these orange mushrooms are Mycena leailana, a species commonly found sprouting in abundant clusters from rotting logs.
This last mushroom, called Bitter Tooth (Sarcodon scabrosus) may not look as lovely as some, with its wrinkled scaly brown caps, but it sure is interesting.
This is a toothed mushroom, which means that it bears its spores on the outside of toothlike spines, rather than gills or pores. When I turned this mushroom over, I could see those hundreds of teeth under the cap, as well as the tell-tale greenish stalk, distinctive to this species.
According to George Barron, author of Mushrooms of Northeast North America, this toothed group contains relatively few species of macrofungi, although there are a number of them that are widespread and easily recognized, including this Bitter Tooth. As its name implies, this mushroom is bitter to the taste and therefore not palatable, while many other species of toothed fungi are actually quite good to eat. (Bear's Head, another toothed fungus that looks like a frozen waterfall, is one of my favorites.)
Here's a cutaway view of all those tiny teeth on the underside of Bitter Tooth's cap.