A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident

These two photographs are of the same crop of turkey tail fungus, the lighter color taken on November 12 and the darker six weeks later. I think they also qualify as turkey tail mushrooms. They fit the definition on several mushroom websites and videos, which seem as plentiful as the variety of fungi and mushrooms themselves.

They also appear to be “true” turkey tails, not false, the difference being the undersides. The false simply looks false, like a knock-off Rolex found at a Times Square street vendor. The false turkeys aren’t as symmetrical or attractive, and lack the healthy ingredients of the real, such as antioxidants, polysaccharopeptides and other goodies that might improve one’s cancer immune system. I would not want to find myself collecting false turkey tails and thereby losing those polysaccharopeptides.

I focused on color. When I snapped the earlier photo, I thought the fungi was lovely, a delicate grey and lavender with a touch of darkening rings. The later photo shows richer variegation, the more typical turkey tail. While not minimizing the turkey tail’s medicinal possibilities, nor how much one might obsess about correctly labeling fungi, I was left more impressed with how much the turkey tail had changed. Had it not been in the same location, I would never have guessed it was the same fungi.

That it changed color so profoundly, but was beautiful in both, seems even more rare. Usually, as a living thing follows its life’s path, it first shows some potential for beauty, like a flower bud, then bursts into its fullness, then wilts, its beauty a wistful memory. Not this guy. I just checked him out today and he’s still quite lovely, though smaller. The colors have lightened again to something closer to their November tones.

A wise friend years ago summarized the three stages of humanity: youth, middle age and “my, you’re looking well.” Turkey tail fungi follow a different pattern: beauty in changing array across its full life span. Perhaps this is also the human pattern, if we had eyes to see.

** Warning: Please do not pick & eat mushrooms, or any other forest plant, without the advice of an expert.



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