Weber column: Late-season mushrooms respond to rains
The first weeks of October this fall may not have been what we were expecting weather-wise. After a September of several degrees above normal, we stepped into a month that became cooler than usual with plenty of clouds and rain. As of Oct. 10, th...
The first weeks of October this fall may not have been what we were expecting weather-wise.
After a September of several degrees above normal, we stepped into a month that became cooler than usual with plenty of clouds and rain. As of Oct. 10, the amount of rain recorded at the Duluth Weather Service had already exceeded the normal precipitation for the whole month of October.
And we subsequently received a snowfall. Indeed, October's bright-blue weather that we may have been expecting became the exception instead of the norm. In place of warm and dry, we experienced a time of cool and wet.
And yet, I find the walks in the woods early this month were just as great as always. Thanks to the warm September, the leaf foliage phenomenon was at its peak in early October instead of late September. And though the backdrop was usually of clouds and not the anticipated blue sky, the colors were just as terrific.
My walks in the first week were surrounded by yellows of sugar maples, birches and aspens, while red maples, sumacs and dogwoods gave reds. When the strong winds of Oct. 9 hit, many trees surrendered their colorful foliage and the leaf drop that we normally experience in mid month started early.
The fall foliage show was great, but did not last as long as some of us may have wanted. But it is not over; after the deciduous trees exhibit their colors and drop leaves, the tamaracks from the swamps add an encore - yellow-gold that grabs our attention.
There is plenty more than tree-watching at this time. During my walks along the road, I have seen hawks, geese, swans and ducks moving on. Sparrows of several species, warblers, thrushes and kinglets all pause along the roadsides to feed and rest during their southbound flights as well.
Also on the road, I have seen red-bellied snakes and garter snakes as they go on journeys of their own. And the woods walks now reveal many mushrooms responding to the recent rains and additional moisture here.
October is a bit late in the mushroom season, but I always locate some. Absorbing available moisture on substrates of logs or tree trunks, they do well. Some, like amanita and russula, were here earlier. I also find red waxy caps (hygrocybe), brown mycena and a few chanterelles. Puffballs adorn downed logs and jelly fungi abound in this wet scene. But two growths that grab my interest were clusters of honey mushrooms (armillaria) and scaly caps (pholiota).
Each of these mushrooms is here nearly every fall, but depending on the amount of moisture, their growths vary much from year to year; usually in groups of a several inches high.
Honey mushrooms are the better known of the two. Clusters range from light brown to dark gray. All have rings on the stem, but honey mushrooms are highly variable and though considered edible, are avoided by some because of confusion with look-alikes.
Scaly-cap mushrooms are more common. The caps are usually tan-colored, often slimy and frequently with scale-like growths on the surface, giving a rough appearance. Rings on stems are only slightly visible.
Like honey mushrooms, they grow in clusters on the sides of tree trunks. With their color, a cluster of scaly-cap mushrooms on a tree trunk is quite a find and though not eaten, they are often photographed.
At this late date, these mushrooms do not last long, but still give us more to see when woods walking during this fascinating month.
Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including "Butterflies of the North Woods," "Spiders of the North Woods," "Webwood" and "In a Patch of Goldenrods." Contact him c/o email@example.com .