As the summer season passes by, we see many of nature's changes occurring. Young birds appear in and out of nests. Juvenile squirrels and other mammals show up in our yards and near our bird feeders. Turtles and salamanders arrive at neighborhood ponds.
However, if we look carefully around our backyard, we will also see other organisms making their appearance. As you look around the yard for the presence of other living things, in addition to wildflowers and grasses, you may notice the mushrooms and toadstools starting to appear. I include the name toadstool here for sentimental purpose. Years ago, the term toadstool usually implied an unsavory or dangerous plant to be avoided when the finder thought it was good to eat. Today we know the toadstool implies a kind of mushroom that still must be respected with caution.
When the finder of a mushroom plant considers its edibility, unless they are positively familiar with it, I always advise that person to exercise caution and leave it alone. I am particularly advising parents of young children to warn them to not touch unknown plants and to take the parents to the location for inspection. I also encourage parents to warn their children about other unknown living organisms, such as animals, and to leave them alone.
The Black Morel.
It is estimated that there are more than 3,000 kinds of mushroom plants in our country. While the mushroom is a plant, it varies from the more common green plants with which we are most familiar. This is due to the fact that the green plants contain chlorophyll and manufacture their own food from root absorption of water and minerals from the soil, while the mushroom does not manufacture its own food as the green plant does. Instead, it absorbs all nutrients from the soil. The part of the mushroom we see is only the fruiting body; it is not the whole plant, most of which is underground, where most of the nutrient absorption takes place.
Included with today's article are three submitted examples of mushrooms found in our part of the country.
The first example is the Sponge Mushroom. This mushroom is one of our most popular and edible mushrooms, and is also one of the easiest to identify by sight. It usually grows in old orchards of Beech-Maple trees and can be found in old burned areas such as grasslands. It is also found under several local trees, such as Elm and Ash.
The second example is the Black Morel. This is the common mushroom of the more cone-bearing regions of North America. It is an edible mushroom and one that is very popular with many folks. It is a plant that is also very successful in regions of the country that experience forest fires. It has been located by scientists in parts of the country where elevation has exceeded 12,000 feet.
The last example is the Scarlet Cup fungus. It is one of the earliest to appear in the spring, along with the more common and well-known skunk cabbage. It is one of those fungus plants that is not the most palatable, and consequently should be avoided. The bright red or orange fruiting bodies you first see appear in early April. Quite often it can be found attached to fallen branches that are partly buried in the soil.
I continue to remind you to send topic ideas, photographs and question to me at 38 Elm St. Fredonia, NY 14063, or you can e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you send a photo by U.S. mail, please put your name and any other identifying information, such as location of photo and date taken, on the back. It helps when giving credit to the submitter. Thank you.