mushrooms: slimy, beautiful, scary
When we think of mushrooms, we might think of food, of things that grow on rotten wood, and maybe even of mold. What they are in a more technical sense, is the fruiting bodies of a much larger organism – the fungus itself. Fungi are extremely important parts of ecosystems. Not only do they contribute to the decomposition of organic matter, and thus make sure that our forests aren’t filled with dead things (and more importantly, that nutrients are recycled), but their positive effect on the growth and well-being of trees has huge indirect effects on the atmosphere. Mostly, the fungus is underground – but when it needs to spread its spores, it produces a growth above ground which makes it easier for the spores to reach a larger area. This growth is called a mushroom.
Mushrooms are conspicuous and often quite beautiful. I think it’s nice to remember that these small organisms that we see in the forest are actually just an expression of a much larger creature that lives underground.
Anyway, it’s the wrong season for them here, so maybe it’s the right time to remember them. I hope you enjoy the photos!
A fungus on a tree (I earlier claimed it was a polypore, but thanks to a clever reader, I’m now questioning that very much).
Some mushrooms are small…
… some are bigger. I found this one in the forest next to my summer cottage.
Some are toxic, like this beautiful fly agaric.
A polypore on a fallen tree. Polypores aren’t actually mushrooms – their fruiting bodies are instead called conks. They are often found on trees, where they decompose wood. They come in various shapes, shades and sizes, and just seeing the picture of one allows me to feel the smell of forest…