As I was walking in Eliza Howell Park the other day, I met one of the regular park walkers. He greeted me – “What are you watching today?” – and I gave a one- word response – “Mushrooms.” He laughed and we continued on our separate routes.
As I reflected later on that day’s walk, I thought that a more complete answer would have been that I was “checking fallen logs to see some of the mushrooms involved in the decomposition of wood, the first stage in the recycling of the nutrients.” But that is not exactly a casual response to a greeting.
In an earlier post (October 4, 2018), I noted some of the ground mushrooms that grow in Eliza Howell Park. This essay is about some of the wood mushrooms. While wood-growing mushrooms are sometimes called fungi, any fleshy fungus can be called a mushroom, as I do here.
In the first couple years after trees/limbs fall, while the logs still have bark, the mushrooms appear, often in large numbers.
Sometimes the rows of mushrooms remind me of rows of garden flowers or vegetables. One fallen tree, 70 feet long, was covered.
These mushrooms are agents of decay, contributing to the process of breaking down the wood. This decay is needed to get the nutrients that the trees used back into the ground for other plants to use.
I am more an admirer of nature than someone who focuses on how things work. I want to know what is going on, but even more I am simply fascinated by what I see. These log gardens have some interesting “flowers.”
To me they are lovely decomposers.
Most live in groups, but some are singletons.
Three years ago, a large white oak tree at the edge of the woods split in two, right down the trunk. The standing half has continued to thrive, this year again producing many large acorns.
The fallen limbs have now been colonized by mushrooms.
Half of the tree lives on. Half is in the process of being recycled, aided by the lovely decomposers. Both are good fates.