Jacks and Chicks

That’s a misleading title :-). It’s Jack O’Lanterns and Chicken of the Woods. They are both orange and fruting at the same. That’s why, along with a 45 degree slope, I almost missed 10 pounds of fresh Chicken of the Woods.

A friend called me this week and said there was an impressive display of Jacks at her place. She and her husband have 20 acres adjoining the city’s greenbelt. No matter how many of a species I have seen before, I am always interested in an “impressive display” and also interacting with new folks on the subject of fungi, so I went over. Although not a large fruiting, it was absolutely beautiful framed against an open oak forest with orange clumps rising out of green pin cushion moss (Leucobryum albidum).

I decided to come back that night with Ellen and try to catch the bioluminescence. As it got darker and darker the Jacks became whiter and whiter.  I had observed a greenish glow around Jacks previously, but that wasn’t the case this time. Every once and while we did see red-orange flashes among the caps. Finally we figured it out. We all picked a specimen and help it right to our face in cupped hands while facing the darkest part of the woods on a moonless night. The white glow of the mushrooms was great enough that we could see the gill patterns. It was a pretty neat experience. It wasn’t until we were leaving that we realized we had been sitting quietly watching mushrooms for almost two hours.

I went back the next day and wandered the 20 acres looking for chicks or hens (Hen of the Woods – Grifolia frondosa). The only mushrooms I saw were four other frutings of Jacks, and then . . . . walking the bottom of a hollow I spotted orange way up a 45 degree slope. By then, of course, I figured Jack #5, but being the type I am ( I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t know for sure), I trudged up the slope and picked 10 pounds of fresh Chicken of the Woods. They were “oozingly” moist.

If there is anyone in my area who wants to pick some young Jacks to take home and see the bioluminescence in a dark room, the ones in the picture below are in Clinton, TN on Sulpher Springs Rd, about 100 yds before the road crosses Black Oak Ridge. The stump is in the middle of a grassy pulloff. I have watched this stump fruit profusely for  five years now, counting 2013.

Jacks are poisonous. Do NOT eat !!! Only look.

Chicken of the Woods, on the other hand, are very good to eat.