Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

East Coast Forests Now Lush With Mushrooms

Bert Gildart: Though the forests of the East Coast tend to be more lush than those of the Rocky Mountains, never have I seen them so rich with fungi as I have on this visit. Though August is always a good month in the Northeast, the unusually heavy quantities of rain and cool weather have contributed to the profusions. In my travels of these past ten days, those places include the woods of New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York.

Hundreds of mushrooms on this small rotting log

Hundreds of mushrooms on this small rotting log

The images, however, that I’ve posted are all from the woodlands of New York. More specifically, those woods are immediately adjacent to the huge expanse of freshwater known as Lake George. I saw these fungi several days ago following a short drive from Sturbridge, MA, where I left Janie with children and grandchildren. I wanted to include all family members in this much-too-short trip east, and so drove north to visit my sister and her family. Lake George is set in the mountains of the Adirondacks, which in turn is part of the nation’s largest state park known as Adirondacks State Park.

Several days ago, while at their cabin on this beautiful lake, Forrest, Nancy and I made a short hike along a path that departed virtually from their back-door step. The woods were wet with fresh rain and that, of course, partially accounted for the abundance of fungi. Within a few hundred feet we had counted almost two dozen different species.

WHAT IS A MUSHROOM?

A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. Mushrooms are fungi, and are usually placed in a Kingdom of their own apart from plants and animals. Mushrooms contain no chlorophyll and most are considered saprophytes. That is, they obtain their nutrition from metabolizing non living organic matter.

According to several other people also hiking the trail, a number of the fungi were edible, but everyone says you really must know the species before you eat one, for there are many commonalities. My nephew, who was also hiking with us, said you can make a very preliminary evaluation by using certain techniques.

First rub a small portion of the mushroom on your skin. If it turns red, stop right there, but if not, then place a tiny portion on your tongue. If nothing happens, try eating a very small quantity.

Mushroom colors include various shades of red

Mushroom colors include various shades of red

MAY BE DEADLY

Though this is the manner in which people of old might determine whether a mushroom is or is not poisonous, a much better way, of course, is to consult an expert. However, even that sometimes doesn’t work, and Walter told me of a case where a man who claimed to be a mycologist ate a mushroom he thought would be all right to eat. Next day he died.

Indian pipes mushrooms

Indian pipes mushrooms

Of interest with respect to the chemical properties of mushrooms is the fact that many species produce substances that render them toxic and mind-altering. Several species are also deadly poisonous.

Toxicity plays a role in protecting the ability of the fungi to efficiently distribute its spores for propagation. One defense against consumption and premature destruction chemicals evolved that render the mushroom inedible, and do so by causing the consumer to vomit the meal.

NO OLD, BOLD MUSHROOM HUNTERS

Perhaps the best thing to remember about mushrooms is derived from an old saying: “There are old mushroom hunters, and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.”

I know very little about mushrooms and am able to provide an I.D. on only one of the species included here, and that is Indian Pipes. The species grows throughout North America and I have seen it along the Natchez Trace National Parkway, in Glacier National Park, and now, in the Adirondacks.

Back home in Montana, I also recognize the morels, essentially because they grow in great profusion a year or so following a forest fire.

What I do know about mushrooms is that they are remarkable photographic subjects, and some of the techniques I’ve described in previous blogs for close-up wildflower photography will also work here.

Certainly they’re another component in a wild America and an interest could open a whole new world-possibly even a career.



8 Responses to “East Coast Forests Now Lush With Mushrooms”

  1. Kelsey Says:

    Cool blog!
    vERY INTRESTING!
    -kELSEY

  2. Kyle Says:

    Mushrooms!

  3. Kory Says:

    Mushrooms are good on pizza!

  4. Bert Gildart Says:

    Thanks, Kelsey, Kyle and Kory…
    Ain’t family great!

  5. Charles Spiher Says:

    Terrific photos. The narrative parallels most naturalists who are fascinated by mushrooms, yet approach them with trepidation. I’ve forwarded this entry to Bonni Mackintosh, a recovery room RN in Southern California (wife of prominent adventure writer, Graham Mackintosh) whose avocation is mycology.

    She’s a wonderful resource if you’re willing to venture beyond those hothouse-grown button mushrooms at Trader Joe’s. A nice companion during a dinner of fresh mushrooms, she’s very handy at cardio-pulmonary resuscitation….a useful skill when toxicity rears its ugly head.

  6. Jennifer Says:

    Indian pipes is not a mushroom. Its a non-photosynthetic plant! I just learned that – thought I would pass it along. It’s actually used medicinally though I’m not exactly sure for what yet.

  7. Alcoholic Pass | Bert Gildart: Writer and Photographer Says:

    [...] create only with artificial strobe lighting. Over the past few years I’ve posted several blogs on lighting with multiple strobes, and on the ocotillo plant, and how it blooms only following rain storms. [...]

  8. Johnie Rodway Says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about close-up photography. Regards

Leave a Reply