Tag Archives: fungi

The forest adorns itself and me.

black locust

In the middle of Saturday’s graduation party, Pippin and I wandered through a gate into the vegetable garden and soon found ourselves sitting in two chairs that seemed to have been set there just for us introverts, who were perhaps unconsciously following the advice given to introverts as to strategies for party-going.

After the weekend was over and we were both in our separate towns and homes again, in “recovery mode,” it was amusing how we found ourselves still together, after a fashion.

I was sifting through my pictures and notes on my phone and looking through my Weeds of the West, the book Pippin had mentioned when I asked her about a weed growing in her own vegetable garden. I was only a few pages away from finding it when on my computer a message popped up from her with a photograph of that very page.

Great Hound’s Tongue

It is Common Hound’s Tongue, Cynoglossum officinale, or “gypsyflower,” which she said she always pulls out before it makes its terrible stickery burrs — and this very minute, when I looked for photos of them online, I realized that these are the burrs which one September I noticed looked like Mrs. Tiggy Winkle! It’s also the same genus as beautiful wildflowers like the Great Hound’s Tongue I saw in Oregon eight years ago.

There is also another photo of hound’s tongue in my files that I think might be Pippin’s work, because it comes from her neck of the woods and I don’t remember taking it:

If that weed in Pippin’s garden looks strangely familiar to those of you who have been reading my last several blog posts…. That’s because hound’s tongue is in the Boraginaceae Family! Yep, it’s closely related to borage. Well, well.

The first full day I spent at Pippin’s, we took a picnic to the lake before working in the garden. There we also found some plants to look into further. There was a white flowering bush my daughter told me was a ceanothus called Mountain Whitethorn, though its flowers can be blue or pink.  We saw a recumbent berry that Pippin identified yesterday as a Dewberry, a name that echoes in my mind from the distant past.

And we all stopped to look at a lovely wild rose,
until Scout in his bare feet ran into some red ants, and from then on we didn’t linger.

wild ginger
merely mud

Back when we’d arrived for our picnic, before we had even got fully out of the parking lot above the lake path, we were hit by the scent of black locust trees in bloom — so delicious. And because a couple of my readers have told me that the flower petals are edible, we all tried them. They were a little dry and bland compared to pineapple guava petals, in case anyone is interested. 🙂

Right under the boughs of those trees Scout spied what he called “Botany Brooch,” and which I knew as the annoying sticky weed or catchweed, Galium aparine. But if you need a very temporary natural-looking piece of adornment, it lives up to its other nickname of “velcro plant,” and requires no difficult clasp to attach it, even after it  has wilted, which happens fast.

From this time forward, I will be less grumpy about this plant with a dozen nicknames, and who knows, you might even see me wearing a bit of it at my garden (work) parties.

When we returned to the garden that afternoon it was to plant Indian corn that Mr. and Mrs. Bread had given from their bounty. Pippin has never tried to raise corn before but she knows people who do, up there where the growing season is not long. It needed to be planted inside the garden fence so the deer won’t eat it; we decided to dig some “hills” here and there where there weren’t too many rocks to extract.

In the course of the afternoon the Professor brought us bags of compost and contributed to the dinner that was simultaneously in process. The children played all over the place, and helped to push the seeds into the earth, and discovered worms to feed to a toad that Pippin had found hiding behind a box. A salamander was unearthed and rinsed off and admired, and eventually let go in a wet area of the yard. I tried to take pictures of the striped bumblebees that are so pretty, compared to the fat black ones that I get down here.

blueberry flowers

High in an oak tree Ivy has hung a little basket of nest-making supplies for the birds. A flesh-colored button of a fungus was decorating the old stump, evidently the immature stage of what will become a dry and brown puffball type of growth; after I took my picture the children showed me how the little brown balls above would release their powder if broken with sticks.

On the other side of the stump, a splash of brightness — is this also a fungus?

Around the homestead of Pippin’s family, the forest is always sharing its life and beauty. I suppose there will never be an end of things for me to explore when I spend time there. But for now, my own garden realm is waiting for me so I will send in my report and say good-bye for now!


Washington – The Rain Forest

The rain forest surprised me. It wasn’t chilly, even though it was cool; perhaps the humidity served as a blanket. The towering complexity wasn’t too overwhelming, because my camera helped me to isolate and literally focus on various particulars.

My favorite plants were the exotic fungi, because they stood out from the multitude of mostly green colors.

They say there are several thousand plant species in there, and I imagined it would be a trial to take a day hike through all that jumble and jungle of green sameness. Instead, it was strangely invigorating. Is there more oxygen than average in a rain forest, what with all those plants exhaling? It was as exciting as the beach.

We had the slightest drizzle as we entered, but not enough to warrant covering my head. Even that amount of moisture waned and my hair didn’t get wet — only pleasantly fluffy, a welcome relief from the usual flat.

Autumn was beginning to give some color accents, especially in the form of the big leaf maples that arch throughout the canopy and drop their leaves over everything.

Hoh….the very name of this forest is like a mother’s calming hush, or a version of the meditative Ohm. I got to thinking of the shape of the letters themselves as the circumference of a Sitka Spruce trunk with branches on the sides. It seems that just the word has endless possibilities, but in any case Hoh seems to be the only name possible for this place, so quiet and deep. The Hoh River runs through it.

Wherever a stump stands, several plants will use it for a seedbed, so that a conifer, a fern and a deciduous tree will often make a bouquet on the stump. But a log lying horizontal becomes a pasture of low and thick lichens and moss.

These gray leaf lichens were lying all around, as well as growing on trees.


The brightest fungus I saw might have been this yellow one.

This area of the world boasts the tallest (Sitka) spruce tree and the tallest (Red) cedar tree in the world. I couldn’t guess what most of the evergreens were, their lowest branches were so high up, and everything blanketed with spongy green lace. But I think this one is a Douglas-fir (it’s written like that because it’s not a true fir.)

 Leafy lichens abound. I guess this is one?

I was surprised when B. said we should turn around and go back out. We’d been hiking two hours and it didn’t seem to have been more than about 40 minutes. By that time I wasn’t living in the moment, though. Time was flying because I had caught a whiff of the moist rain forest scents. Funny I didn’t notice right away. But when I did, I couldn’t just enjoy the mystery and deliciousness of these smells, but I had to start thinking about how I would describe them, if only to myself, so I could remember them.

I will probably never come back here! was my thought, and I will never smell this again. So why did I waste time thinking about it, I now wonder. Why not just drink of the thrilling sensory Now? And why were the disciples not content to just be in Christ’s presence at His transfiguration?

They were trying to make provision for the future, and prolong the experience, as I was hoping to provide myself with some words to take with me. I couldn’t hope to make the moment last, as we were walking fairly briskly by then, getting closer and closer to the outside where the opportunity would be gone.  I was lagging behind and noticing that the mix of wild aromas changed with the changing terrain, but they were always bewitching. Do people get addicted to smells? It could happen here.

 Time was running out, and it did run out, ten days ago now. I kept thinking about the words for several days, but as expected, there was no way to improve on whatever poor metaphors I came up with while my senses were being bombarded.

The smell of the rain forest was something like eating a cookie fresh from the oven, a cookie made of fermented wild mushrooms and hazelnuts, with one’s head in a bucket of vanilla ice cream.

This was a new smell for me, with no links to my grandmother or anything in my past. There was no way to focus on it the way a camera helps one to focus visually — and no way to deliberately preserve it, though my mind has no doubt filed this input in a purer form than the silly image I worked so hard to invent. Perhaps elements of that exotic forest atmosphere exist elsewhere, and if so, they might someday come to me on a moist breeze and I’ll be taken back to the Hoh.