This is a partial reprint of a previous blog from my old site, but this activity continues to be fun the more I learn (and has taught me a lot on how to adjust the AV setting on my camera). Where do gnomes live? Why, in mushrooms, of course!
It's the new after-storm sport! After a lot of rain – be it rain storm, tropical storm, or hurricane– come the mushrooms. Make a family activity of it and bring your camera. Go in the back yard, in the woods or a field, and keep your gaze low to the ground. (Mushrooms also grow on dead and dying trees, of course, but it's the ground-dwellers that appear out of nowhere that we look for now. Call it "gnome-hunting" if you want.) So grab a Peterson Field Guide to mushrooms if you've got one and get outside!
This activity serves three purposes: Time with the family (that doesn't require electricity aside from the batteries in your camera and flashlight), exercise, and learning to identify mushrooms. Most mushrooms are poisonous and your first foray into their unknown world should be cautious and respectful. Don't touch mushrooms with bare hands or taste them. Wear long pants. Bring insect repellent. (Lavender and feverfew are natural insect repellents and can be rubbed on clothing and hair. Never use insect repellent with deet on pets or small children. Do not use feverfew or pyrethrin-containing products on cats.) Take lots of pictures and note when (month) and where (log, ground, field, sun, shade, etc.) you found the mushroom. Note stem and cap sizes, gills, spore color, or other distinctive characteristics. Bring a flashlight if you're in a dark area.
I am by far NOT an expert in mushrooms, but I am starting to learn about edible ones. Misidentification can lead to severe illness and death. Do not eat wild mushrooms unless you have a positive identification from a trained guide (mycologist), the mushroom is not spoiled, and the mushroom has been cooked! One Asian family, gathering mushrooms in the U.S. that looked like the edible ones from their homeland, all died. Another family in Mexico bought wild mushrooms at a Farmer's Market that were misidentified and also died. Alcohol intensifies the effects of toxins. Then there's simple allergy. I don't mean to scare people, but foraging of this sort should not be taken lightly. For help with identification and symptoms of poisoning, check here. It's fun just finding mushrooms and trying to identify them.
Here are some photos of specimens I found in Chepachet:
|Not a fungus or mushroom, but a plant|
that does not have chlorophyl called "Indian pipe".
|Is this how a gnome flips his home? Next to sassafras.|
|Curiouser and curiouser...|
|A bit stuck up?|