There was a feeling of transition in the air at Hinckley Lake today. It didn’t feel like summer, though it is still summer. It didn’t feel like autumn, which it isn’t. It is some in-between, transitional season. On the ground, at the base of a tree, was an illustration of change: a green leaf, leaves fading from color to lifeless, beautiful fringed fungi thriving on a dead tree branch, and ultimately soil.
Fungi generally grow upon decaying material that was once alive. Today, on a very pleasant hike on a trail in the Hubbard Valley Park, Medina Park District, I happened upon a most beautiful shelf fungus. The fan-shaped growth was protruding from the trunk of a still-standing dead tree along the path. This beautiful flower of decay with the feathery pattern of markings? Dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus).
The hot, and wet weather we have “enjoyed” lately have been great for plants and perhaps better for fungi. Various, mostly unattractive, ‘shrooms have been popping up in the garden mulch. What caught my eye this morning, however, was a tiny garden — really tiny — of bright orange fungi sprouting from the top of a fencepost outside our door. I grabbed my little PowerShot G11 and clicked off a few macro shots of the little wonders before we took off for some grocery shopping. Returning about an hour later, I took another look at the object of my attention; they were withered and sad looking. I suspect they’ll show themselves again since the little growths are only the tops of fungus that runs deeper into the seams of the wooden post.
On a whim we decided to explore the Royalview Trail section of the Cleveland Metroparks’ Mill Stream Run Reservation. Upon arrival we discovered that the park is a haven for local mountain bikers! Single-track, packed-earth trail ranges in difficulty from moderate to advanced and travels through the reservation’s beautiful hilly woodlands. Small streams are crossed, ravines traced and traveled, and narrow wooden boardwalks bridge the park’s softest and most sensitive soil.
Cyclists, trail runners, and walkers were friendly and even helpful. Why not? Surrounded by beautiful natural settings on a warm and beautiful day –one of the summer’s finest– it was hard not to relax and be happy. Cyclists enjoyed the physical and mental challenge of the trails but there was plenty for slower-paced visitors to discover, things missed at a faster pace. At one point I left the trail to photograph the beautiful light reflecting red on a fallen tree’s now-bare trunk. On my way to the tree I looked down at another fallen log and discovered a tiny creature, about an inch in length, standing ever-so-still on the moist surface. It was an Eastern Red-spotted Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) in its Red Eft phase! I’d never seen one in nature and shot a good many photos of it. Owing to the deep woods and shade, photography was difficult and only one image turned out at all well.
Later in our walk, She Who Must Be Obeyed said, “Look at that!” On the ground, just off the trail, lay three “brains,” or what looked like brains, in the leaf litter. I’ve seen many woodland fungi in the region but never one like that. Looking closely at the growth to photograph it, I noticed it was very popular with the local slug population! I don’t know what they found so appealing but the slugs seemed to like the “brains” very much. We identified this one as Sparassis crispa — the Eastern Cauliflower Mushroom.
It was a splendid and enjoyable time and I’m sure we’ll visit again, perhaps this fall when the colors are likely to be amazing. Perhaps sooner!
Visiting the Hubbard Valley Park of the Medina County (Ohio) Park System today, we walked the woodland trail. The woods were lovely, dark, and deep, as has been restated by many. Among the beautiful sights was a rotting log hosting sun-spotlighted fungi. Philosophers, have at!