🍄💙: Found these blue-tiful mushrooms in a friend’s forest on Sunday. I ID it as a Lactarius indigo. Lactarius are known as “milk mushrooms”, because when cut they “bleed” a milky fluid. And that liquid can be some fantastic colours! Just look at that blue!!
🍄✒️: I brought home a sample mushroom for some ink-speriments. I used the very technical approach of squooshing the mushroom cap and bottling what came out (bottom right). It’s a lovely colour in the vial, though natural inks sometimes don’t dry as vibrant as the source. But I had a feeling this ink might dry the exact colour of a nuthatch. And it did! Soooo…Lactarius nuthatchii? I’ll keep checking back on this little birb to see how the colour holds up over time.
👩🔧🎨: If you’re curious about wild inks, I’ll be facilitating a Painting With Plants workshop at the end of September. (Workshop will be held outdoors.) More details to come, but feel free to DM us if you’d like the full info when available!
🎨🌿: Nuthatch is painted with Lactarius indigo, acorns, oak galls, and goldenrod. Detailed with soot ink and a quill pen.
🍄☠️: Friendly reminder not to squoosh mushrooms you don’t know. Ontario also has deadly toxic mushrooms and some are fruiting right now. Squoosh responsibly friends.
🧠: I mean, my gut is wonderful. And it has a lot of essential and often critical information to share with the group. But it also has a pact with my brain to run their decisions past each other.
🤪: Because when it comes to mushrooms, my gut might be hungry, and therefore not thinking straight.
🍄🌳: I came across these mushrooms in the woods a while ago. They are quite a bit like the oyster mushrooms that grow nearby, but my gut said they weren’t oysters.
🤪🍽️: The next time I walked by, my gut had changed its mind. Y’know what, it said, our regular oyster mushroom tree might be spent. And maybe these *are* oyster mushrooms, and just don’t look like what you’re used to? You don’t have your books with you, maybe there’s some variation or exception you’re not remembering… So I was like, okay gut, let’s settle this. And I brought one back to the house for spore printing. Tag brain, you’re up.
🍄⏳: The photo in the centre of the top row, and the large photo beneath, are the same mushroom. *Exactly* the same mushroom. One day later, but now having released its spores to paper. Oyster mushrooms have a white spore print. And while colour perception varies from person to person, I think we can all agree these spores do not look like newly fallen snow. They don’t even look like snow that’s fallen on a gritty city street, been driven over for several days, and is now compacted in the gutter with bits of asphalt in it. This here, this is a brown spore print.
🍄🌨️: The far right of the top row is a less intentional oyster mushroom spore print that I happen to have right now. An old oyster log I have was fruiting, and I pulled a couple of small mushrooms off it a few days ago, and laid them out to dry. As the mushrooms dry, they release their spores. Their very white snow-fallen-on-a-frozen-lake spores.
🍄⛔: I don’t know yet what the mushroom at top left, top centre, and bottom enlarged is — I’m strongly leaning Crepidotus — but I know for certain what it *isn’t*. And in mushrooming, knowing what isn’t is nearly as valuable as knowing what is.
“Science is magic that works.” ~Kurt Vonnegut
🍄❤️: Take care of your gut. Don’t let it wander the woods alone. 😉
…As in I asked @hooked.on.hope if she could make me this mushroom, and then as if by magic, she did!!
🍄⭐: Amanita muscaria, or Fly Agaric, is the fungus of choice for pop culture. It’s the Mario mushroom, the Smurf mushroom, and the mushroom on your emoji keyboard.
🍄📺: It also grows here in Ontario, though it looks a little different than on TV. The variety that grows here has a yellow or orange-red cap, rather than the bright red found further away from the Great Lakes, and in Mario land. See photos below for the Ontari-ari-ari-o kind.
🧶🧡: I find the yellow-orange capped mushrooms at least as beautiful as the red variety, though I’ve never seen them pictured on mushroom posters and paraphernalia. But if you want something beautiful conjured into the world, ask your local maker if she can make your local mushroom. Thanks Mellie!!
🤮☠️: Though opinions vary, I count the Amanita muscaria mushroom as poisonous. Neither fungal nor crocheted versions are safe to eat.
Stemonitis! I want to make a joke about getting tubular with fungus but I can’t *quite* bring myself to do it.
They look like mushrooms who forgot to put their caps on, but Stemonitis is a kind of slime mould. These clusters of cylinders are their sporangia — where the spores form.
Slime mould used to be considered a fungus, but now they’ve all been reclassified outside that Kingdom. Regardless of which kingdom they’re a citizen of, slime moulds are fascinating — “they move and feed like animals” (Barron). They *move*. I highly recommend giving them a Google.
Most descriptions I found call Stemonitis “rusty-brown”. I would describe these ones that way, but many of the Stemonitis I saw looked very purple. It was the purple that caught my eye in the woods. As in, “what the heck are those little purple jobbies??”
This Stemonitis was fruiting on a log that is already well colonized by Chlorociboria aeruginascens (blue-stain fungus). So it’s both a log I love to look at, and a log I don’t look at closely anymore, because I think I know its story. Lesson learned… Again.
Only saw these chaps because I was in the woods looking for nothing, which means I can be distracted by anything, and that’s when I see everything.
The story goes that King Alfred, exhausted from battle, filthy, and lost in the woods, was given shelter by a herdsman’s family. In his unkempt state, they didn’t recognize him as the king, and thought he was a tired soldier.
The wife was in the middle of baking bread on the hearth, and asked the King to watch the fire while she went to fetch more wood. While she was out, he fell asleep and she returned to find the loaves burnt. Scolding him for his carelessness, and the wife expressed surprise that anyone would not understand the importance of tending to the bread. What sort of person doesn’t understand such a basic household task?
In one version of the story, King Alfred scatters the burnt loaves in the woods to hide his mistake.
Enter Daldinia concentrica. Also known as “King Alfred’s Cakes”.
Daldinia growing on decaying wood. Tiny burnt loaves.
But the story of the burnt loaves is not this fungus’ only connection to fire…
King Alfred’s Cakes are also sometimes referred to as “coal balls” or “carbon cakes” or “carbon balls”.
But much like the legend, the exact details of why depend on who you ask.
Some say that the “coal” name comes from Daldinia‘s sooty spores. Spores of Daldinia are ejected through little tubes (perithecium) at the outermost layer of the fungus. You can see these tubes in the cross section photo below. The ejected spores look like a fine black powder, and the “soot” this fungus leaves behind certainly do make you think of carbon or coal.
Half a Daldinia. The perithecium (the tubes from which spores are ejected) are visible on the outer layer. Consensus is that each concentric ring represents a season’s growth.
However, there is another explanation. One that ignited my interest, as it were.
Because Daldinia has another unusual and interesting property: an ability to catch and hold fire. This fungus ignites quickly, but smoulders slowly.
This mushroom can carry fire.
Now, if you hand me information like that, there is one more thing you have to hand me. Matches.
I took my tiny Daldinia sample over to the fire pit, and, well, here’s what happened…
Now that’s what I call confirming an ID! I conducted this experiment around 6am one morning before getting started on work, and it made my whole dang day. I’m still high on it.
Daldinia are quite common, and this fiery property may have historically made this fungus a useful “tool” to forage: as a vessel for moving fire from one place to another, or as tinder. Using fungus as tinder would not be unique to Daldinia. This was also famously concluded as the reason that Fomes fomentarius, “hoof” fungus, was one of two fungi found in the travel equipment of Ötzi the Iceman’s 5000 year old mummified remains.
It’s all still there, even when we fail to notice. The raw materials for heart-rending heart-mending fascination. Both the tinder and the spark. The embers of science and magic in the tiny un-flashy fungi, and the sense of wonder we adult humans seem to constantly misplace, or dampen under the wet rag of a humdrum existence. But there it all is, smouldering away, waiting for our interest to ignite, and set it ablaze.
Note: According to some sources the species that grows here in North America should be identified as Daldinia childiae, instead of Daldinia concentrica.