Fascinating Fungi!

Life is inseparable from death. More importantly, perhaps, is that death is inseparable from life. Everywhere is evidence that death is simply a new beginning. At least that’s the way it works within our biosphere, that thin layer of life between Space and Rock. Here, death invites a plethora of mysterious characters whose goal is to disassemble and re-assemble the parts of the deceased. Life is reconfigured and reanimated death.

Some of the most interesting characters are fungi. There are perhaps 10 times more species of fungi than plants in the world, and only 3-8% of fungal species have been named. Sooooooo… if you seek immortality through naming some curious species after yourself, fungi are an excellent field of study.

But if you’re like me, you’ll be content with figuring out some of the most common ones, especially the sort that are good to eat or potent medicine. The top left pic is an oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) that I found in Pasadena, CA. It’s a good one to know because it’s tasty and hard to confuse with anything poisonous. It grows on wood from late fall to spring (here growing on willow, and generally on deciduous trees. I’ve also found it on alder, elderberry, willow, aspen and cottonwood.) The spores are white and are often seen on lower caps, since this mushroom typically grows in shelves. The caps are cream to brownish, flesh is thick and the gills run the length of the mushroom. My favorite way of cooking them is to dip in egg, roll in Italian bread crumbs and then fry. Mmmmmmmm!

The top right picture shows some of the mycelium of the oyster mushroom that is eating the wood of this willow tree.

The bottom pictures show some little brownish mushrooms (LBMs, and yes, that’s a technical term) that I’m seeking to key out. I’m making spore prints to aid in identification. The color of the spores is an important part of identification.

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