Friday, November 25, 2016

Turkey Tail Tales

I was way too busy cooking yesterday (and too pooped at night), to post a Happy Thanksgiving blog. But I hope all my readers had a wonderful day of feasting and family love, without too much friction among folks either happy or mad about our recent election. (Lucky for me and my dear family, our extended members who might want to fight are as far apart geographically as along the political spectrum.) I was hoping to get outdoors today, but the rainy grayness out there is not beckoning me, so I took a walk through my photo files instead.  Since we're finishing off the tail-end of our turkey leftovers today,  how about we look at a few variations of that beautiful fungus called Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)? This is the ruffly fungus shown in the photo above, sharing its fallen log with the vivid orange mushroom called Mycena leailana.  I always thought this particular combination of fungi would make a beautiful centerpiece for the Thanksgiving table.

As the following sequence of photos shows, this is a very aptly named fungus, whether we call it by its common name or its scientific one.  With its fan-shaped fruiting bodies displaying bands of alternating colors, it does rather resemble the spread-out tail of a courting or challenging tom turkey. And as its specific name, versicolor, suggests, it comes in a whole variety of colors.

Probably the most common colors we find are varying shades of tan and brown, from the softest ecrus and ivories and cafe-au-laits to the deepest chocolates.

Then once in a while, we come upon a mass of Turkey Tails with bands of vivid blue and vibrant orange.

Here's one I found with bands of bright orange set off by a wash of avocado green, thanks to a green-algae coating.

Just recently, I stopped in amazement before this gorgeous mass of Turkey Tails with bands of school-bus yellow alternating with bands of blue. This is a combination I had never seen before.

All of these examples display the strikingly zonate bands of contrasting colors that are typical for this fungus, and a closer look would reveal that these zones are often different in texture as well as color, with fuzzy zones alternating with smoother ones.  This fuzzy or velvety texture of the cap, as well as the starkly contrasting color zones are among the features that distinguish this species of Trametes from other similar members of its genus.  Another distinguishing feature of Turkey Tail is that the fresh caps are thin and flexible, not rigid and hard.

The Turkey Tail  is one of the polypore fungi, meaning that its fertile surface consists of many pores instead of gills.  We have many other species of polypores, but in the case of Turkey Tail, these pores, while visible, are very tiny, presenting as many as 8 pores per millimeter.

This fungus grows on the deadwood of hardwoods and only rarely on conifer logs. And to the delight of hikers in every season, it can be found year-round.  I'm hoping the weather clears a bit soon and my flagging energies revive so that I can get back out to the woods. Perhaps I will come upon a beautiful arrangement like this:  vividly striped Turkey Tails sharing a mossy log with gray-green lichens.


Woody Meristem said...

Great photos of one of my favorite fungi -- very appropriate for this time of year.

Kathryn Grace said...

What absolutely gorgeous images! Thank you for introducing me to this sometimes brilliantly-colored fungus. I don't recall ever seeing anything like it in the woods out here in the west. Hoping you get your energies back soon and feel well enough to go exploring again. Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season.

The Furry Gnome said...

That's a wonderful variety of Turkey Tails! Such interesting colour combinations. Every time I read your blog I am inspired to get out there and take a closer look at what I'm seeing!

Andrew Bradshaw said...

Like everyone else has said (or thought) these are some beautiful (and beautifully-photographed) mushrooms and fungi.