My friend Angela is a mycophile, a term I just now discovered while trying to identify some mushrooms I photographed yesterday. A mycophile just loves mushrooms. Not only does Angela spot and photograph them while hiking, she even favors them as a decorative motif in her apartment.
So it was for Angela's sake that I started paying attention to the mushrooms of the world. Now, however, I've come to find them rather fascinating in their own right -- but only as something to admire visually; when it comes to eating mushrooms, I stick with the grocery store.
At the end of my little dirt road is a small green field occupied by my favorite neighbor, a cow named Ruby. Yesterday, I noticed five different kinds of mushrooms growing at the edge of Ruby's field.
To me, five different kinds of mushrooms in such a tiny space was a noteworthy photo-op. But the neighbors seemed to think that a woman kneeling by a field photographing mushrooms was far more noteworthy. So now I've met a couple of my neighbors.
Still, the only one of these I think I can identify is the amanita muscaria, the red one.
The little faceted puffball might be the same kind, only younger. Or it might be a calbovista subsculptura.
Now that I think of it, maybe the this one is a more mature version of the amanita muscaria. Anyone know?
I think this is some kind of jelly mushroom because it was sticky and didn't have gills on its underside.
Finally, this weird one, which from the top hardly even looks like a mushroom, but underneath is clearly some sort of gilled variety.I wish I could go on a mushroom identification hike with an expert. Now must be the perfect time for such a thing. There was a mushroom fair last week in Eureka, but that was before the mushrooms of Ruby's field caught my imagination.
Mushrooms are so strange, just appearing overnight, barely connecting to the ground yet totally earthy. And I love their mysterious names, like Dead Man's Foot, Earthstar and Earth Tongue.
One mushroom, the Armillaria ostoyae (Honey mushroom) in Oregon has been identified as the world's largest living thing, covering 2,200 acres. And check out this dude in Australia with the mushroom he found.
And of course, I can't end this without mentioning, reluctantly, "the elephant in the room," psylocybin, the thing that added a characteristic sparkle to my own wilder years. Still, I can never think about the word intoxicated anymore without noticing the presence of toxic right in the middle of it.
We are the strangest creatures of all, we humans, poisoning ourselves for fun. Don't you think?