It’s been rainy for the last few days here at the October Country Inn. An uncommon dip in the jet-stream opened up a path for moisture laden Gulf of Mexico air to sweep north in a procession of wet thunderstorms. The rain is welcomed. It’s what gives the Green Mountains their name. The rain-soaked earth also produces the explosive growth of myriad varieties of mushrooms, fungus, and unusual plants. I came across many on this morning’s walk in the woods. One such plant, called ghost plant or Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), only appears when the ground gets moist after a dry period. Unlke most plants, Indian pipe is white because it does not contain chlorophyll. It is parasitic. Instead of generating its own energy, it gets the energy it needs to grow from trees through a complex relationship with certain host fungi. In western herbal medicine Indian pipe is used to calm the nerves.
Another eye-catching mushroom that I encountered along the path is called yellow patch (Amanita flavoconia). The genus Amanita contains about 600 species including some ot the most toxic, as well as some well-regarded edible species. Amanita alone is responsible for about 95% of mushroom poisioning fatalities. One species, death cap, as the name implies, accounts for about 50%. For this reason, although I like the subtle taste and texture of mushrooms, I leave it to the experts to pick them out for me. I often find various species of Amanita along the path, they’re often colorful and unusual looking and fun to take pictures of, but I leave it at that.
On the other hand, there’s chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). This is an edidle variety of bracket fungus that is relatively easy to identify due to its bright orange color. Although wild mushroom connoisseurs claim they have the texture and taste of chicken, and often use them as a substitute for it, I still didn’t harvest any from this healthy batch. I’m not all that fond of chicken. Sadly, this live maple acting as host for this fungus is doomed. It will not survive. Personally, I’d rather have the tree.