Monday, May 4, 2009

Morel Mushroom and Sprouting Buckeye

Over the weekend we went to our cabin near Waynesville NC to open it up for the season.  It's a tiny place that used to be an apple shed in a long-gone orchard. You can still see occasional apple trees here and there on the hill, and until last fall one of the original, 130 year old apple trees stood guard beside the cabin.  It had been failing for years and finally it had to be taken down, but we miss its huge, friendly trunk and waking to the BANG! and roll of the withered fruit it dropped onto our tin roof.   There had been a big hole in the trunk that had been home to the imaginary mouse-friend of our 7-year old neighbor, Rose, so a section of the trunk now resides in their garden at the big farmhouse just up from our cabin. The spot where the tree once stood has the darkest, richest soil I have ever seen, with only a foot-long, narrow band of hard applewood that had been holding up the whole tree.  We wish we could plant another apple tree but the surrounding oaks, ashes, hemlocks, and cherry trees cast too much shade now.  So, yesterday we decided to leave the Christmas Ferns that grew around the base of the tree, add to them and make it into a fern garden.  

Behind the cabin is an old, unused road that circles the top of the hill.  A massive Buckeye tree grows above the road and drops its dark, burnt sienna nuts conveniently (for easy pickup) onto the flat, leaf-littered gravel.  We look forward to gathering a few in the fall for the cabin (see Buckeyes in a Red Bowl). Yesterday, though, I was amazed to see how many seedlings had sprung up this year.  They were about a 18" high and I wondered if this was their first year, so I gently pulled the leaf litter away from the base of one.  Sure enough, there was the shiny brown nut nestled amongst the old rocks.  The fat white stem and thick root emerged from one side and magically went their own way according to nature's law: up and down, respectively.  A beautiful sight.

Also on this road was a Morel Mushroom (I've never seen one before, but I knew it immediately), Violets (Common Blue and Canada), Winter Cress, Forget-me-nots, Golden Ragwort, Daisy Fleabane (much larger than the Common Fleabane), Ground Ivy, Buttercups (Tall and Hooked), and Aniseroot.

We had off and on rain all weekend - a good thing when you have a tin roof and a good book to read.


Judy Butler said...

Helen, how exciting, I have never seen a Morel Mushroom either. When we first moved to our house about 35 years ago, we had 12 apple trees. Lightening and age have taken all of them. It was a sad passing for each one, so I understand about your apple tree. Another lovely journal entry both words and drawings.

Helen said...

Thanks Judy! I thought about you when I saw the mushroom and wondered if you'd ever seen one. It's much easier to identify than most mushrooms. My two Mushroom field guides (Audubon and Simon & Schuster) agree on the morel habitat, "single to many, on the ground in OLD APPLE ORCHARDS and burned areas; associated with dead elms, tulip trees, and ash,oak, and beech-maple woods. So, look around where your apple trees grew and maybe you'll find one!