(Photo courtesy of Kevin Keyes)
When it comes to fungi that leave no mystery as to how they got their name, Old Man of the Woods definitely fits the bill.
It's wooly. It's scaly. It has uneven coloring. Basically, it always looks a little unkempt and very much past its prime.
The scientific name, Strobilomyces floccopus, roughly translated, means "wooly mushroom that looks like a pine cone."
While many mushrooms can be difficult to identify because of their rapidly changing appearances, this one is much easier due to some very distinct characteristics. In addition to the gray-white cap with tufts of black hair on it, the underside has pores instead of gills.
One unique feature of the Old Man is that when the flesh is damaged, it will turn pink and then fairly quickly fade to black. It's the fungi world's version of liver spots.
Based on the image above, that Old Man has been used and abused by nature. The one below has had a kinder existence.
(Photo by Suzy Lyttle)
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So where can you find these gems?
They'll be on the ground in mixed hardwood forests, especially under oak trees. We've had a pretty good run the past few years of coming across them at Hickory Creek Preserve.