Yes, we found a few straggles of asters, and some goldenrods still held a few blooms, but except for the newly blossoming Witch Hazel (oh, that fresh and slightly citrusy fragrance!), most of our flowers are faded and gone. And in their place were a whole bunch of marvelous mushrooms.
The first mushrooms we found were a genuine puzzler. They looked like lumps of bread dough scattered about the forest floor. Possessing neither gills nor pores nor stalks nor caps, how would we ever identify them?
When we pulled them apart, we couldn't find many clues inside, either. Except to prove that they weren't any kind of puffball.
Our friend Ruth Schottman suggested they might be a "mummy mushroom" that has been parasitized by another fungus. That was enough for me to start searching online when I got home, and sure enough, I found several sites describing how the fungus Entoloma abortivum will parasitize other mushrooms, especially the Honey Mushroom (Armillaria mellea), creating these shapeless blobs that are sometimes called Shrimp Fungi. I also found out that they are edible and quite delicious!
There sure were a lot of Honey Mushrooms for that Entoloma to parasitize! Again and again, we found massive clumps of Armillaria, both fully mature and still in the button stage. Here's one of the clumps of yellow buttons I harvested to take home for supper. (And they really were delicious!)
And here's a clump of fully mature Honey Mushrooms, spilling the white spores that helped us be positive in our identification of them. There are some other fungi that could be confused for HoneyMushrooms, but none of them have white spores.
We were puzzled at first by a scattering of tiny yellow pegs popping up on fallen tree limbs, but then we found one with the lid removed, and the mystery was solved: these were one of the species of Birds-nest Fungi (family Nidiculariaceae). The tiny "eggs" are the sporangia that will be splashed out by raindrops and then release their spores.
Another puzzler was a little clump of these crowded red discs attached to a rotting tree stump. I believe they are one of the group called sac fungi, but I'm not sure of the species. Perhaps the one called Copper Penny (Pachyella clypeata). Or perhaps not.
Oh, just look at this marvelous mushroom in the next two photos! So fragile, it broke at a touch, and with a cap so thin you could see right through it! And with beautiful black-edged gills! None of us had the slightest idea what it was, nor could we find its look-alike in any of our guides. I've put queries out to some of my mushroom-expert friends, and if I get an answer I will be back to post it here.
As sturdy as the previous fungi were delicate, this solidly bulbous purple mushroom is called a Wood Blewit (Clitocybe nuda). I've read that it is one of our better edibles, in addition to being such a lovely shade of purple.
Ferns were another delightful feature of our walk along the creek. Since most of the ferns grew in the deepest shade of the woods -- we found Cinnamon, Christmas, Hay-scented, Interrupted, Royal, New York, and Wood Ferns -- I tried only twice to take photos of some of them. These delicate Maidenhair Ferns were among the few green ones remaining in a patch that was starting to fade. I love their lacy quality, their dainty trembling appearance.
Sensitive Ferns live up to their name by disappearing at the very first hint of the slightest frost. I wasn't aware that we'd yet had a frost to turn these fronds brown. Maybe they were just getting tired of this continuing summery weather. At any rate, I thought their rather "tweedy" appearance was actually quite lovely.