I think I'm coming to a realization about myself, when it comes to learning about the natural world: I'm a generalist. I don't love any particular part of nature more than another. True, I DO love flowers and plants, and spend a lot of time trying to make my garden beautiful, but does a flower give me more of a thrill than a bird, or even a dragonfly? Not really, its just that I can decide which flowers and plants I want to surround myself with, and have less control over which birds and dragonflies wander into my garden.
Then there are all the other wild things around us in nature; mosses and lichens, wildflowers and trees, sun and sky, clouds and stars. Every time I take a class or go on a hike I learn a little bit more about the world around me, and that knowledge helps me appreciate and notice more of what I see.
On Sunday afternoon Lee and I took a class called "Fungi in the Fall" through the New England Wildflower Society. The class was held at a very interesting place called Drumlin Farm, in Lincoln, Mass, in the western Boston suburbs. It was a beautiful cool sunny day, great for wandering through the woods, although not so great for mushroom hunting. Mushrooms like dampness, and there hadn't been any good mushroom hunting rains for the past few days.
|We did find a fair number of mushrooms, but we had to look carefully
The class started with a short lecture on the life cycle of fungi. Strangely enough, I had just completed the page on fungi in the Botany Coloring Book through which I am slowly working my way. This meant that I heard the same thing that I had just colored, so it actually seemed a little familiar to me and made some sense. I have a terrible time with all those latin terms, but I do have some understanding of mushroom form and function now. I can "see" all those mycelium sneaking through the soil, the mushrooms themselves sprouting up when the conditions are right, the spores drifting down from the laminae (the little ridges on the underside of mushrooms).
|You can really see the laminae in this picture
I'm fairly apprehensive at the thought of eating a wild mushroom, unless it is a morel. All the others seem like an iffy proposition to me. Lee would like to be able to identify more of the edible varieties, but I'm just in it for the interest and beauty. I'll leave the identification and consumption to the experts!
|Doesn't this guy look like he stepped right out of Fantasia?
We found a lot of very interesting and beautiful looking mushrooms on our walk. Our teacher, Jeff, could identify some of them, but wouldn't state definitively what quite a few of the fungi we found actually were. Apparently even the experts don't like to state exactly which species of mushroom they've found without taking it home and keying it carefully. I did discover that it matters how old a mushroom is as well as what kind it is. Old mushrooms aren't good to eat, even if they are an edible variety.
|We all wanted to capture images of the fungi we found
Drumlin Farm is a working farm with a small collection of animals and a very large garden. They have a farm stand, but we didn't buy anything since we're getting ready to go out of town. They have a lot of activities for children and there were little kids everywhere. And it was just a beautiful afternoon. Occasionally I would have to lift my gaze from the fungi to the fields and enjoy the flowers and other plants as well, staying true to my generalist tendencies.