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.
Picking up paw paws, putting ‘em in a basket. Way down yonder in the paw paw patch. An old children’s song, and that’s what we did yesterday, thanks to Greg’s boat and a long pole.
These paw paw trees were right on the river bank with limbs over the water.The trees were intermittent and small, but you could see their fruit from the boat. Sometimes we got out of the boat to shake a tree, but mostly we whapped the limbs with a log aluminum pole and watched the paw paws plunk into either the water or the boat – once on my head. Fortunately paw paws float, so water rescue was the name of the game.
If you’ve never eaten this fruit, you ought to try it. A creamy, custard-like pulp that makes great pies, breads or even ice cream. Reminiscent of ripe banana. Of course, it is best just squeezed out and eaten. It also freezes well for use during the winter holidays, much like persimmon pulp does. Greg makes a cream pie out of them – ersatz banana cream pie !!
Here is a link to a video and blog post from NPR about paw paws.
Sept 10, 2013. Went out to the 100-pound patch again today. I’ve been checking it every few days since the middle of August. Last year the great fruiting of Lobsters was between August 10th and 15th. Five days ago I found 4 or 5 concealed (see the video) lobsters and then a couple of more Sunday morning. Today I got 5 pounds. BUT, I only saw just a small tip of two. The others were all TOTALLY concealed by pine needles. What I did was stand in the middle of an area were we had picked last year and looked around for a slight lifting of the needles and then scraped the duff back revealing a lobster. Hopefully in 2 or 3 more days they will be popping above the needle litter so they can be spotted easier. I took this video Lobster video of what I am writing about.
A number of times, when I scraped back the duff I found an unparasitized Russula brevipes (pictured above). R. brevipes is believed by many to be the primary host of Hypomyces lactifluorum, the parastic ascomycete fungus that parastizes a host mushroom producing the distinctive rough red texture, preventing gill development, and, in an alchemy-like way, turning an inedible mushroom into one of the very best of edibles – prized in fact. I am including the slightly out of focus picture below that shows an unparasitized Russula and a small Lobster growing in an almost conjoined fashion.
I find, over and over, this host and Lobsters in areas where they are the only macrofungi to be found. I’m convinced that this is the host – at least where I have picked Lobsters. The host may be different in other locations.