October 12, 2022 | Topics: Stories
Story and photos by Christel Maass
Fall is a glorious season for a hike in the woods. Temperatures are comfortable, the bugs have dissipated, and trees and shrubs blaze with color. It’s also the best time of the year to find and admire a wide variety of mushrooms along the trail.
My husband and I recently walked the Greenwood Segment of the Ice Age Trail in Waushara County, near Wautoma, where the footpath meanders through a forest of stately oaks, pines, and other woodland species growing in this sandy region of Wisconsin.
After recent rains, we saw many types of mushrooms pushing up from under leaves, bursting out of bark and rotting wood, peeking through cracks in decaying tree trunks, and sharing space with lush green moss on fallen logs.
Mushrooms appeared artfully arranged under woodland sedges, against contrasting greenery and bright fall colors, and with twigs for added decor.
Many colors, textures, and small surprises, can be found on the forest floor as the season changes (above and below).
Mushrooms have a symbiotic relationship with particular trees. During our hike, a grove of aspens proved that indeed this was true, for only beautiful Amanitas grew thereabouts. After nature reinforced this lesson, I found myself paying almost as much attention to the canopy as I did the forest floor.
Amanitas (below, in different stages of growth) are often pictured in fairy tales.
While Amanitas are striking, on this hike I came upon the loveliest mushroom I’ve ever seen: orange peel fungus (below).
I can’t top that beauty, but hope I’ve inspired you to head out on a woodland hike, and during your walk remember to look up at the trees as well as at the mushrooms around your feet.
Lastly, a word of caution before you get down on your hands and knees. Remember the saying “Leaves of three, let them be,” for poison ivy often lurks about. And most importantly, don’t ever eat any mushrooms you’re not familiar with, for they may be your last meal.
Enjoy the season!
Related story: Fantastic fungi are among the Treasures of OZ!
For places to go where you can look for both autumn colors and mushrooms, check out our Find-a-Park map.
Christel Maass, a newly minted Master Naturalist, can often be found hiking with her husband, Terry Rindt, who sometimes grows impatient when she stops too often to admire and photograph nature’s intricacies. This is Christel’s second story for The Natural Realm. Read her first Here: Indian Creek Woods and Indian Creek: Rebounding with Life in Fox Point.