Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lichen and Jelly Fungus


The world brightened quickly around noon when the morning fog finally burned off. As soon as it did the dogs and I set out for a much needed sunny hike. Water was still running off our high hill and down the small gully in the middle of Old Thompson Road, swirling and dancing over small waterfalls as it sought lower ground. Water droplets still on branches sparkled in the sun. It was warmer than I thought it would be and not as windy as predicted, so within the first five minutes my fleece jacket had to come off. Whew! I also headed for the pine woods to let the shady coolness counteract my decision to wear Smart Wool long underwear!

The soggy needles and leaves were spongey. They made no sound as we wound our way through the trees with a Downy Woodpecker leading the way, flying from tree to tree. We crossed a swollen Meetinghouse Creek, and headed up the other side. On the highest hill I accidentally relocated an interesting old sourwood tree and was just as surprised and excited as the first time. The trunk has deep furrows broken into fat chunks of bark. The branches twist and turn and cross each other in a beautiful pattern, and seen against today's blue sky it was quite striking. And it was just what I wanted to draw. I walked all around and found a good angle. I put my waterproof pad down, folded my fleece jacket and put that down for added comfort. I settled down to work. Out came my box of pens. I carefully picked out one of the new ones and then located my reading glasses in my pocket. Then... Something was missing. My journal. There was no journal in the backpack. I'd had it out for Monday's post and didn't put it back into the backpack. Geeze. Nothing to do but admire the tree a while longer then pack up and go home.

By the time we got back to the house the wind had really picked up. I retrieved my journal from the kitchen and wandered back in our woods a while. The wind kept getting stronger. It really roared! I finally decided I should NOT sit around under old trees in high wind. Sure enough, within five minutes after leaving the hill I heard a loud crack and turned in time to see a huge branch fall out of the top of one of the large oaks and land with a heavy THUD right where I'd been considering sitting. OK! Good decision. For safety's sake I sat myself down in the driveway, one of few spots around Middlewood with no trees, to draw part of a large branch that had fallen in the woods due to the jelly fungus that covered it. The fungus grows on dead branches during summer, looking like dry, mushroom-like scales. When the winter rains begin, bringing days of rain instead of just hours, the jelly funguses plump up into a slimy, jiggly, heavy mess. They grow too heavy for the dead branch to support. Crack! down they come.

On closer inspection I found another fungus (Honeycomb) and various lichens on the small piece I'd picked up. I've always been fascinated with lichens and have wondered about the weird jellies I see in our woods, so this was a particularly fun day...first hiking, then drawing, and last but not least, learning.

4 comments:

Nancy said...

Oh, i love this one! Fungi and lichen and mushrooms are wonderful, aren't they? Don't know much about them but i like the way they look. Found a recipe for a slurry mess that you paint on clay pots to make them "old" using chopped up lichens ... this post reminds me that i want to try it!

Benjamin said...

amazing hand work, and words, scrumptious.
thank you.
-ben

Helen said...

Oh, my. Thank you, Ben!

Garden tips said...

nice photos and a well written blog. I look forward to reading more.