The Kingdom Fungi is so varied in form that for mushrooms to be the sum total of our understanding of the group is a grotesque labeling that gives scant credit to the role these organisms play in the Bigger Economy. And yet, it’s understandable that mushrooms represent this group of living things as they are the most visible manifestation of a largely invisible life form.
Mushrooms also are so interesting in their growth habits, shapes and colors that it is easy to think of them the way we think of bird song–as being about melody, tone and a pleasant happy “singing” for our benefit. And all along, the Fungal Way is about dissolving their host organism–which is usually but not alwaysÂ dead already–like this maple tree.The fact that we find some of them interesting, lovely or edible is neither here nor there from the Fungal point of view.
I cut off the forks and branches from the top 30 feet of this fallen hardwood a few years back, and many BTU’s of firewood energy warmed my home and then escaped up the smoke stack or radiated into space from our walls. The rest of the trunk still on the ground will yield an equal amount of energy that will go into producing fungal threads that permeate these hundreds of pounds of cellulose. Here, where the thousands of miles of fungal threads contact the outer world in its orange papery form, spores from that maple-digesting mycelium will launch out to find other fallen but not consumed logs in other forests.
Still, knowing this feeding-on-death job description for Fungi, I do enjoy wallowing about on our hillside for Fungus Glamor Shots. More to come. Headed out now for some chanterelles spotted on this morning’s dog walk.