This is how obsession starts. It’s also how real learning happens.
I’m not sure exactly when it started, but it’s dawned on me that I’m interested in fungus. Very interested. I’ve been fascinated for years by how decomposers turn trash into treasure, especially into soil. Soil is more precious than gold. But lately I’ve become interested in the fruiting bodies of fungus (which we call “mushrooms”).
My awareness crystalized when I was supposed to be ordering one unrelated book online… but I wandered over to the field guides and… I ordered two field guides to mushrooms. Sight unseen.
The Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms has arrived, and I am reading it cover to cover (as noted on my Twitter account).
I’m learning a lot. Like, from the first page.
Who knew I could learn to recognize fungus Orders so quickly! That’s thanks to Vera McKnights’ organized sketches.
But I had been paying attention even before nature-nerd-ing out over the field guide. In fact, I’d taken a few photos and posted them to iNaturalist. I was excited (and honored) to receive a response from LGPrice, the creator of the Texas Higher Fungi project on iNaturalist. I quickly learned that I need to take more photos, and perhaps even cut some mushrooms open (which I’m loathe to do).
I also need to take even more field notes. I know journaling is important, but in the case of mushroom edibility, noticing and recording details can be the difference between life and death! (Not that I’ll be eating wild mushrooms without an experienced mycologist any time soon… or ever…)
Here is just a sample of information that’s crucial in mushroom identification:
- Cap size, shape color, thickness, and surface texture
- Color and texture of the INSIDE of the cap (Cut it open!!?!)
- How the color changes when the surface is pressed or scratched
- Regarding the stalk: does any fibrous material connect to the cap? Is there a skirt-like structure?
(Currently I’d be happy just to identify to the right Order, let alone Species.)
I’m even using Vera McKnight’s illustrations as inspiration to get back into sketching! As an art teacher told me, a great way to learn to draw is to emulate good drawings. (Note the important quote.)
My newest nature obsession even bubbled out during an iNaturalist social meeting – the first of its kind that I know of – wherein local naturalists who have also “gone digital” get together to support and encourage each other. I mentioned mushrooms twice, and quickly found other Fungi Friends! Oh, this could get geeky. And wonderful.
This is just the beginning of a fruitful obsession, and I’m so excited.
(I’m glad we’ve moved beyond the British influence which negatively associated mushrooms with witches and dark arts. Although if you look at the #mycology hashtag on Instagram you won’t just find beautiful photos of mushrooms… if yaknowhaddimean)
If you’d like to geek out over nature and share it with your friends and family, please participate in Field Notes Friday!