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  Now's a Great Time to See All the Fungus Among Us
  Posted: 10/7/2016
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Fall generally offers ample opportunities to find all sorts of fungus in the preserves and as cooler, wet weather moves in, be on the lookout while on the trails.

The fungus that can be found across the District’s more than 22,000 acres comes in all shapes and sizes, with some fascinating sights for all of the amateur photographers out there. Yes, we’re speaking directly to those of you participating in our Preserve the Moment photo contest.

Where should you be looking, besides down?

Interpretive naturalist Suzy Lyttle offers some tips, with the key being on the habitat conditions of the preserve.

“Look for decaying wood,” she said. “This could be tree stumps or fallen limbs. Another good spot is on the base of trees.”

Moisture levels also are important.

“After it rains is a good time to go out looking,” Lyttle said. “And be quick. One day they will be awesome and the next day they can be gone.”

We often get questions on whether certain fungi are edible. Most can easily be misidentified and more importantly, removing anything from the preserves violates the District’s General Use Ordinance. So if you’re lucky enough to come across something amazing, take only pictures and leave only footprints, and remember that you're encouraged to stay on designated trails and paths for your safety as well for the protection of the native habitat.

Here’s a sampling of what you might be able to find this time of year on the trails:

Old Man of the Woods

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This fairly rare mushroom looks exactly like the name would imply. The flesh starts out white, but will turn grey, then black after exposure to air.

This old man is clearly on his way out.

Turkey Tail

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It commonly grows in tiled layers and has a thick, leathery texture.

Frost’s Mushroom

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Its sticky red cap is a true red, unlike the brownish or rusty red colors of so many other species. It has a number of distinguishing features, including a coarsely reticulate stem, while its flesh bruises and turns blue. In Mexico, this large mushroom's common name is panza agria, which means "sour belly."

Cauliflower Mushroom

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As you can guess, it gets its name from its unique appearance. It's often described as looking like a head of cauliflower, a sea sponge, or a brain. Its color can range from a light brownish yellow to a creamy white, as seen in this photo. In terms of size, they normally range from 10 to 25 centimeters tall.

Chicken of the Woods

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We can tell this is a younger fungus because of its bright orange body; older ones become pale and brittle, with an almost chalk-like appearance.


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It can usually be found growing on dead or dying wood and has fragile icicle-like spines.

Scarlet Waxy Cap

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It's fairly young, and we know that because of the wax cap that's bell shaped. As it gets older, the top will flatten.

So, now that you're equipped with this handy information, get out on the preserve trails and do some exploring!
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