“…the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source.”
That clinical description belies the charm of these organisms that pop up from the forest floor when the right conditions (dampness being key) are present. The varieties are endless, and some are edible, but identifying them properly is a sticky business best left to experts. If you eat the wrong one, you can get sick or even die.
Of course mushrooms are but on type of fungus. Another type that is easily spotted on the trails is a bracket fungus (see picture). These grow on trees, like this one which is growing on a dead and downed tree alongside the trail on the Overlook side of Rattlesnake cutoff. Look for it in what I call “Fern Glen” which is where the seasonal creek is now running across the trail.
This specimen I found near the 4th Street entrance to the Montini Preserve, and I love it’s delicate stem. I had to get quite close to get this shot of what is one of the smaller varieties. On the same day I found nearly the opposite, one with a six-inch cap that had only recently popped up above the dead leaves of the forest floor.
For help in identifying a particular variety, there are a number of strategies:
- MykoWeb’s California Fungi site
- Google Image Search
- Field Guide to Mushrooms of Western North America
- California Mushrooms: The Comprehensive Identification Guide
- The Sonoma County Mycological Association
Whether you are trying to identify a particular variety or simply enjoying seeing them pop up in the season of the fungi, it’s yet another reason to get out on the trails and enjoy what they have to offer. See you on the trail!