Turkey Tail Fungus

The other day we took a break from our acorn burying to rest in the shade on this stump.

Pretty soon Hickory was ready to run again, but I paused to peer at the stump edge. “There are two fungus types growing here, but I believe they are both Turkey Tail fungus,” I told him.

He perched beside me and swished his tail. “Nope. Only the striped one. The gold one might have the waves, but it’s missing the stripes.”

I compared the gray striped one to the plain gold one, then we left for acorn hunting again. Later that day I hunted down Miz Flora and asked her.

“He’s right,” she said. “The scientific name is Trametes versicolor. Versicolor means ‘of several colors’. Turkey Tail fungus isn’t just orange and gold. It can be other colors, but it always shows several colors. Your plain gold fungus is something else, and I have to admit, I only know they most common fungus so it’s a mystery to me.

And it’s a mystery to me why I hadn’t picked up that fungus tidbit and Hickory had. But I know it now!

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What’s better than one mushroom?

A whole ring of mushrooms!

Well, not quite whole, but you get the idea. Some humans call this a fairy ring, and we squirrels hate to disappoint you, but there is nothing magical about mushrooms growing a ring.

Or so says Miz Flora.

When Hickory and I found this ring, we took our elderly neighbor squirrel over to get her expert botanical opinion. This is what she said:

“Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungus, and appear at the edges of the underground mycelia–like roots of fungus. Those mycelia grow outward in all directions from where it first sprouted. Do you kits see any signs of a tree once being here?”

Hickory and I poked around. “Here it is!”

“That fungus,” said Miz Flora, “started decomposing the tree, or likely the tree stump or its underground remains, if the humans had the stump ground out. It has spread every year, wider and wider, working to break down those wood cells. If you come back next fall after a good rain like we’ve had, then you’ll find another ring, just a bit bigger.”

“But what about the knocked over mushrooms?” Hickory asked. “Does that hurt the fungus?”

“Nope.” She flicked her tail. “That only stops them from spreading more spores. That fungus is doing fine underground.” She looked around. “But I sure would like to see another tree on this bare corner rather than grass.”

What squirrel wouldn’t?

On a leaf

The Common Milkweed plants are mature, and the Monarchs are finding them. But have you noticed that these native wildflowers attract tons of bugs? A few years ago we showed many of them, and here are three from our recent visit.

A Carolina Mantis on milkweed leaf–an immature one, his wings are just forming.

Milkweed Leaf Beetle

Pearl Crescent

And here’s that Milkweed Community post in case you’d like to see more!