Mushrooms Galore!

A wet July has made for an explosion of mushrooms. A walk in the woods can dazzle the eye with a bold assortment of mycelial life underfoot. According to Dianna Smith, a New Hampshire-based naturalist and mushroom enthusiast, mushrooms and trees have symbiotic relationships. Trees give mushrooms the sugars that they need to survive while mushrooms release valuable nutrients from the materials they decompose. The mushrooms that we spy along the trail are a bit like flowers, emerging from a vast underground network that has been compared to the Internet (aka the Wood-wide Web). This underlying mycelium can be long-lived and massive. A colony of Armillaria solidipes mushrooms in the Malheur National Forest of Eastern Oregon is believed to be 2,400 years old and spans an estimated 2,200 acres. I’m not sure how old or vast the mycelial network is here in the Adirondacks, but these trailside finds made for a fascinating walk. The heavens may sing the glory of God, but on a warm August day, so can the forest floor.



Mushrooms

by Sylvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

from Sylvia Plath’s first collection: The Colossus and Other Poems, published by Vintage, New York (1998, ed.)