A journey into the eyes and mind of a naturalist.

Shroom with a view…

Mushroom are amazing structures.  They are the reproductive structure of the much larger fungal body that we never see on the surface level.  One of the largest living single organisms is a fungus spread throughout hundreds of square miles.  Mushrooms, or toadstools are simply the means of reproducing for these decomposers.  Mushrooms are incredibly delicate and have evolved to found in fit nearly every ecosystem and every color of the rainbow.  Here in the North Woods the mushroom only ‘bloom’ for a few short days each year.  They push through the detritus on the forest floor spread their spores and then quickly decay.  Their function is complete and the larger organism below ground does not waste the energy needed to keep the visible mushroom.

The delicate gills on the underside of the cap act as launching pad for millions and millions of spores.  The slightest breeze is enough to send the spores scattering though the forest.  The yellow color acts as a warning for any potential predators that might think it is a quick meal.  Many mushrooms have extremely potent toxins that can cause mind altering experiences or death.

In all my years up at my cabin I have never seen a mushroom with this bright orange color.  The moment I took this picture, laying on the forest floor with my shoulder dug deep into the leaf litter, I knew it was going to be good.  After reviewing it on my computer it is now one of my all-time favorites!

Mushrooms are not plants, they are not animals.  They don’t get energy from the sun, they excrete digestive juices to digest dead organic material, they then absorb the digested broth.  They have cell walls like plants but the wall is not made out of cellulose like plants.  Instead fungi have cell walls made from chitin, the same material that insects, crabs, spiders and all other arthropods use in their exoskeletons.  From and evolutionary perspective the fungi are closer related to animals than they are to plants.

Next time you see a lowly fungus on your dinner plate or on the forest floor.  Think about what your are really looking at, imagine the thin tendrils of the fungi spread for hundreds of feet around you.  Think that the mushroom on your plate is only a single step in the life cycle of an incredible organism.

On another note…

Fall is in the air,  frost has come, the Juncos have returned.  Summer has breathed its dying breaths.  Winter is on the way.

Up Next:  Migratory Visitors


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