Mushroom season is well under way and this weekend in the Middlesex Fells I came across the largest patch of ‘Chicken of the Woods’ mushroom (Laetiporus sulphureus). See below:
This lovely mushroom is apparently edible but I didn’t take any to try. Regretting that now. It should be cooked and even them there are some adverse reactions reported. Mostly stomach upset. It is not dangerous or deadly. It should also be eaten when young. This specimen was very fresh. Here is a closeup:
It was still very thick and wet and had not been attacked by bugs or deer yet (both of which will happily eat it – and I have seen deer in the area, although infrequently).
All in all it was a lovely walk that morning. Fresh cool summer air – and I was out before the flying bugs got annoying. When leaving the area I spotted another patch on the back side of the tree:
These two patches to the right were younger and probably still developing. All in all a great day out there. I’ve developed an interest in getting there early in the mornings when there are less people and everything is just fresher before the heat of the day disturbs everything.
I know I’ve been coming thick and fast with the mushroom updates but this weekend I solved a mystery that has been bothering me for a while. There seem to be two major, large, polypore mushrooms that I see attached to tree trunks in my area – the first was identified as the Birth polypore (Fomitopsis betulina) and A Blog Post here. But I would see another type, more flat and with rings of colour and generally larger and encircling the trunk… see below.
This is about 20 cm across (8 or so inches). The underside is also not with simple pores.. it is more maze-like. See below:
My books and exhaustive web search failed to really identify it. Eventually I think I found it. It is the thin walled maze polypore or blushing bracket (Daedaleopsis confragosa)and seems very common in this area.
Here is a large community of them here:
It doesn’t seem to have any very interesting properties. Apparently the flesh is tough and not very edible, but not poisonous, so it’s considered ‘inedible’. Its just surprising that was is a very common fungus in the Middlesex Fells didn’t rate a mention in many books or forums.
Wild mushroom literature is obsessed with a few types of mushroom species – usually for their flavour or medicinal value. When it comes to medicinal, none seems to be more prized than the Turkey Tail Mushroom (Trametes versicolor). This polypore mushroom (think pores, not gills, on the underside) is saprotrophic (grows on dead wood) and extracts have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents.
I haven’t looked at those studies myself and I’m pretty skeptical about claims like this. The excitement for me is not in making a tea and treating some inflammatory issue I might have. The mushrooms themselves apparently aren’t very tasty either. No, I just like the thrill of the case and so this fairly warm weekend I decided to go in-search-of the Turkey Tail mushroom. Long story short, I failed. It’s the dead of winter and maybe not a great time, instead I came across some lookalikes and went about trying to identify them instead.
Exhibit A is below:
To start, this mushroom is not really the right coloring expected of turkey tail – it’s a little too dull. A sample of it dried out pretty quick and turned pretty much grey. The cap was, however, velvety, which apparently is correct. The underside (not shown, sorry 😒) did have a pore like structure and definitely not gills, but the texture was more like fibers or teeth, not pores. This is just not adding up for Turkey Tail but it does seem to match Trichaptum biforme. This fungus has similar ecology to the Turkey Tail, but it’s underside is apparently more tooth like. T. Biforme is also noted to have a purple edge to it but alas this does fade so it’s not surprising it was absent. Another look about elsewhere uncovered this patch below, looking very old and wet and possibly discolored by green algae.
Exhibit B:It’s underside structure was similarly tooth-like. This specimen was also just looking very old and abused by winter.
The purple thing did trigger a memory so I looked through some old photographs I had and low and behold in September or October last year I uncovered a mass of these little guys, complete with subtle purple edging. Look below.
So it seems that Trichaptum biforme is common in the Middlesex Fells and is acting as a major decomposer of dead wood in the area. And it survives into the winter quite well. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for Turkey Tail once it’s season comes in though.
We recently had some warm weather often extremely frigid conditions between Christmas 2017 and the first week and a half of 2018. Well, it warmed up to about 13 °C / 55 °F on Saturday so I hit up the Middlesex Fells with the dog.
Over Christmas I’ve been reading more and more about fungus and mushrooms and I really wanted to go to a few locations where I had seen mushrooms during the summer and autumn season last year. So the first place I went was a silver birch tree very close to the east side of Bellevue Pond on South Border Rd, Medford, MA, USA. I had seen these really curious white balls on this live tree in early September and at the time I really didn’t know what they were. They certainly looked fungal/mushroomy but I was expecting to see a more typical mushroom shape and was surprised that if this was a mushroom that it could push through the bark. See the images below:
Fast forward to now and after significant snow melt, the same tree looks like this:
Cool, they did turn into a more typical ‘mushroom’ shape. After some web searches and reference mushroom books I identified this mushroom as the birch polypore (Fomitopsis betulina). One of the lobes/caps had fallen off and was on the ground nearby so I picked it up and flipped it over.
You can see the underside doesn’t have gills but pores. The margin (edge) of the cap rolls over and under the underside, exactly matching the birch polypore description. (I took this sample home!) Below is a closeup on the cap that formed at the bottom of the tree – it was still attached.
It turns out this mushroom is edible but doesn’t taste very good. I didn’t eat this one. It contains a number of compounds that are suppose to be good at killing some intestinal worms and has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Well, research continues.
Another fungus I encountered was as an odd looking jelly-like mushroom. See below:
I wasn’t even sure this thing was a fungus. Some research showed that, yeap it is! And a well known fungus that comes out this time on year (deep winter). Its the amber jelly roll or willow rain (Exidia recisa). Apparently it is edible but does not have an interesting taste, nor is it fowl or bitter.
I have many more photos from last Summer and I may get into some more identifications of those as well. It is amazing how many different kinds of mushrooms are out there, even in the dead of winter.
I had a another nice walk in the Middlesex Fells this weekend – just a quick one really with the dog this time. We happened to stumble upon this nice cluster of mushrooms, however. If anyone knows what species they are, I’d love to know! I have never seen such a cool cluster of mushrooms.
Oh, and this variety too was near by. Again, a huge patch, but I think slightly different species.
Today I went on a nice little walk in the woods, just me and dog – like I do most weekends. Our favourite haunt is the Middlesex Fells, situated in the northern suburbs area of Boston. We’ve been going for about a year, so I have seen all seasons in the park/forest and know most of the trails quite well.
Oddly enough there is one area where I always seem to get a little lost. Not lost – lost. Just disorientated. In my own head I call this region the ‘Fells Triangle’ because I seem to lose all sense of orientation. Coincidently, this area also contains the site of an old silver mine. I’ve been looking for this mine and it turns out I’ve been looking in the complete wrong area for some time. The map of the area contains references to the old mine with a hill named for it and a path. In the picture below you can see in red the area I’ve been looking.
But it turns out it is located much closer to the reservoir, in the area circled in green. (I originally screwed this up and circled the area in blue – this is the wrong area and more proof this part of the Fells is weird and deserves its name as ‘The Fells Triangle’.) This green area is also where I always seen to get confused about where I am.
The mine is clearly labeled by the park with a sign up on a nearby tree. See below:
The flat depression in the center of this picture is actually a concrete slab that covers what used to be a huge hole dug out of the ground. Historic reports describe how workers used explosives to carve the mine but very little silver if any was ever found. I also recall reading how the miners used lots of water and since the location of the mine is closer to the reservoir waters, this all makes a lot more sense. There are also a number of concrete poles that are erected around it and look like they once carried planks of wood designed to keep people and/or animals out. The concrete slab is square and now well covered by nature’s debris and time:
I can only imagine how they managed to place this here. The concrete is reinforced with steel bars, which can be seen in a small hole that is in the center of the slab. The hole looks like it has been dug out by curious hikers who wanted to see into the remains of the mine:
There seems to be water at the bottom. I dropped some sticks into the hole and after a considerable time I heard it splash. I would estimate the depth to be more than 10 meters or the height of a three story building.
What possessed people to think there was silver here? Or anything of use? When I hit the ‘net’ looking for information on the Silver Mine I could find very little information. Now I’ve found it its tempting to hit google again and see what more I can find out. The whole thing just seems like an odd enterprise.
On the way there and back there was a number of wild flowers out. This time of year is great for hiking. The weather is starting to cool off, and like today the humidity can drop down quite a bit here in New England. But the summer flowers persist and look so much better in the less harsh light this time of year. I’ll post some pictures below. I have no idea what these flowers are or what the plant name is. I’ll try and figure it out and edit this post.
If you know more about the mine in the Middlesex Fells or the names of these flowers, feel free to drop me a line.