Friday, September 2, 2011

The Days Grow Short . . .

. . . And the shadows grow long.  September.  Summer's end.  Yes, the calendar says we have three whole weeks of summer left, but the shift has already begun.  It began, in fact, several weeks ago, arriving with the first goldenrods and the afternoon cricket songs.  I used to feel melancholy this time of year, but lately I don't.  Perhaps it's because, ever since I retired, I've had the time and the freedom to spend nearly every day in nature, to completely immerse myself in each season's delights and come to feel in tune with each season's changes.  So let the autumn come, and after that, the winter.  I welcome both.

Today still felt summer-warm and humid, with an overcast sky letting down a few raindrops now and then.  Although it was calm and would have been a good day for a paddle, the Hudson was still on a post-storm rampage, roiling with tumbling debris that could pummel my boat like a battering ram.  Besides, all the riverbank plants are still covered with silt, the petals all ripped from the flowers.  So I went to Moreau Lake State Park instead, to walk the trail I've volunteered to steward, which circles the lake's back bay.

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.

Here's another pretty arrangement, with a rusty-red, mohair-tufted Painted Bolete (Suillus spraguei) surrounded by a cluster of open beechnuts, their gaping husks reminding me of baby birds clamoring for food.

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.


Raining Iguanas said...

As always your blog a relaxing replacement for the morning news. A long week of hurricane related stress at work is soothed by your colorful and well scripted photos (which by-the-way have me researching Canon cameras, thank you very much). The beautiful mushroom photographs and descriptions bring back vivid memories of my grandmother's farm on Wilton Rd. She would collect and dry wild mushrooms on tables in the sun soaked safety of her front porch. The scent of the drying mushrooms and the Slovak soups she lovingly constructed with them is fondly rekindled.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful vignettes!!! The fungi colors and shapes are incredible - the more I try to identify them, however, the more I realize that I have to 'destroy' them to get all those particulars like gill structure, how the gills are attached, etc. Sometimes 'pretty yellow mushroom' just has to suffice :-) Pretty cool picture of the tooth structure - looks like a shark's mouth!

nina at Nature Remains. said...

I'm enjoying your pictures and posts.
Having grown up just south of where you are, I appreciate a trip back "home" to visit an area I seldom see.

Louise said...

Just look at all of the different mushrooms you found! They're all so beautiful, and the colors are wonderful.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your kind comment, Raising Iguanas, and also for the memory of your grandmother's mushroomy farmhouse. Did she teach you how to forage for fungi? Regarding the camera, I still use my Canon Powershot G7 from time to time, but ever since I received a new Canon Powershot S95 last Christmas, that's the one I've been using. And loving. When it focusses on what I want it to. It can be stubborn and I haven't learned how to use the manual focus for macros.

Thanks, hikeagiant. Yes, the fungi are fun, indeed. Some are beautiful, all are interesting. And sometimes I'd rather enjoy their beauty than know their names.

Welcome nina, I'm so glad you stop by to visit. Thanks for taking the time to leave your comment.

Hi Louise, glad you enjoy the fungi. This time of year, they're the most interesting and colorful things in the woods, now that most of the flowers are done blooming.

jan.s said... has brought such delight to discover not only your journeying and the discoveries you've made but the revelations of those who likewise have such a love of nature...and of those who remember the birth of that love in memories of a grandmother....I shall return again...and wish to thank you all...greetings from the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia...

Frank K said...

Love the pictures of the mushrooms! It was great to learn more about them and it sounds like your adventure was amazing. :)