Oyster fungi begin the mushroom seasonEach year following the summer days of heat and moisture, the fungi put forth a huge and varied growth. Spreading from summer all the way into fall, the growths of these strange organisms proliferate in the woods. And it begins usually in June.
It appears as though the month of June will again be one of above-normal temperatures, and even if we’ve had some cool times, we also approached 90 degrees a few days. In like manner, we have received some good amounts of precipitation. June is always wet, and we normally expect about four inches of rain at this time. And as we very well know from last week, the rain can be very hard and a lot more than four inches sometimes.
This is also the time of the summer solstice. Long days, warm temperatures and plenty of rains all blend to keep the growth going.
Each week, I see the results of this massive floral growth in some plants that reach out into summer. This week it was the blossoms of several well-known berries that abound along the roadsides and the woods edge. Here I noted the small, medium and large flowers of raspberry, blackberry and thimbleberry. If the large numbers of these blossoms is any indicator,
I look forward to a big crop of berries from these bushes in the late summer. Some of the flowers more associated with July and summer are starting to bloom now too. I recently found dogbane and cow parsnip flowering, with nearby fireweed and milkweed rapidly developing buds. Deeper in the woods, ferns thrive in the wet shady conditions. Lush and green, the ostrich-, interrupted- and lady ferns all stand at least three feet tall. And here too, I found growths of fungi. The mushroom season has begun.
Each year following the summer days of heat and moisture, the fungi put forth a huge and varied growth. Spreading from summer all the way into fall, the growths of these strange organisms proliferate in the woods. And it begins usually in June.
Last week while passing by on the margin of the forest, I noted that among all the thick green growth, there was a clustered bunch of mushrooms. Stopping for a closer look, I could tell that they were a kind of mushroom called Marasmius. (Many mushrooms are known only by their Latin or scientific names and so these labels are often used.) This type was no surprise since they frequently show up in lawns. But they told me that others would be here too. A short time later, while looking upon a dead tree, I saw layers of white mushrooms.
I had found the first oyster fungi (Pleurotus) of the season.
Many fungi stick out flat from the main trunks of trees. These shelf fungi are varied and some remain here all winter, growing into large sturdy perennial structures. These were different. Each of these was softer material. And unlike many of the shelf fungi, these had gills on the undersides. (Gills, despite the name, are not used for breathing. It is here that the reproductive spores are formed.) Each mushroom had grown to at least six inches across.
Some say it is the shape of the fungus that gives them the “oyster” name while others say it is the taste. Whatever the cause of the term, oyster fungi are highly sought by those desiring fungal foods or, as in my case, they are looked for because a thick growth of the oysters in the woods tells us that the mushrooms season is beginning, and on my regular walks I will have more to look forward to. The cluster I located appears to have been found by some fungus-eating insects and does not look appetizing. And as we go into the hot-season months, fungal finds, along with the flowers of summer, ferns, butterflies, dragonflies, spiders and more, will give us much to discover. And it all starts with a few fungi in June.
Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including
“Butterflies of the North Woods,”
“Spiders of the North Woods” and “Webwood.” Contact him c/o