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Rainy woods

October 5, 2010

We ventured into the rainy woods just beyond the cranberry bog, withdrawing from the blowing mist of the open and ducking fat raindrops from oak trees, maples, and pines. I was giving the toddler a break from the indoors, with the added quest of looking for the two shy fawns we’ve been seeing there and hoping to discover some sign left by their parents. We found nary a hoof print, but the cover of fall’s thin canopy was inviting and we wandered around familiar paths studying the wet, leaf-covered ground.

That doesn't look like a good idea...

What we found was fungus, lots of it, it varying stages of decomposition. As mushroom growers and woods dwellers, we’re accustomed to seeing a lot of fungus, but there were some notable specimens in this bunch. Immediately catching my eye was the evidence of something feasting on the fungus. The nibble-marks measured in few millimeters, so I suspected a chipmunk or mouse. A hippy once told me that small rodents eat little bits of amanitas to experience mild psychedelic trips, but I don’t know how he could have known what their intent was – unless they told him.

My hippy friend would have delighted in the discovery of a dime-sized, bright purple mushroom poking out from under the oak leaves. As best I can tell, it is a Common Violet-latex mushroom, and poisonous, too. Maybe that is why there was only a tiny bite taken from this specimen. We moved the leaves to check out its skirt, or lack thereof in this case, and found a little nibble taken from its stalk, which would later prove to be an important clue. We found another violet, this time more fully-grown and the size of a half-dollar coin.

just a nibble

Other mushrooms had bigger bites removed, and many of the mushrooms were knocked over. Adding to the fungus carnage was the presence of almost completely decomposed mushrooms; with caps turned to slime, their stalks looked like eels or bloated worms. They collapsed as they lived, in a close bunch, and reached almost eight-inches laying down. There was a hefty black mushroom, pitted and shiny with slime, that looked like a sponge soaked in ink. At over four-inches across, it sat heavy and resolute on its stalk.

these really go out with a... squish.

We continued through the forest, getting wetter and enjoying ourselves more the longer we remained. We happened upon a shaggy little growth of fungus, no more than three-inches across. I thought it might be saprophytic Indian Pipe, with all the tops worn away, but upon closer inspection it looked like coral, a Crested Coral fungus, to be exact. It looks just like those fake corals one can buy for a fish tank, minus the faux treasure chest nestled underneath.

Our slickers dripping wet, we headed out of the woods. Just as we reached the edge of the thick growth of oaks, we spied an elegant white mushroom, standing tall on a trail littered with chewed up, knocked down fungus. It was the deceptively lovely Destroying Angel, ragged skirt under its cap and sheathing cup at the base of its stalk and all. This mushroom is deadly poisonous – similar in symptoms to Death Cap poisoning – but a pair of slugs nuzzled its stalk anyway. Bingo! I should have recognized those wandering little bite marks from my vegetable garden. We were witnessing the after-effects of a wild slug party with mushroom buffet.

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