Saturday, September 26, 2009

Love at First Sight

Do you remember where you were the first time you kissed a girl? 
The adrenaline, the excitement, the beauty of the moment. In the woods this past week, I saw her. No it was not a girl. But a beautiful Mushroom called Chicken Mushroom by the National Audubon Society Pocket Guide "Familiar Mushrooms" page 172. Copyright 1990. 
Back in 1988, my first one, no not the kiss, but the Chicken Mushroom also known as Sulfur Shelf, Laetiporus sulphureus, was witnessed in Crescent, Missouri.  Mike Kohler, a great naturalist and friend showed me this beautiful mostly orange mushroom growing out of a tree about 2 feet off the ground.  It was so gorgeous and so unexpected, this multi-layered bright pumpkin orange growth out the side of a tree!  The sulfur shelf always grows out of wood. It can be on the ground above buried tree roots, and is always stalkless.  The orange of the main mushroom is fringed with an outside ring of yellow while it is still growing.  The underneath side is yellow with pores and has large fan-shaped caps to 12" wide.

I've seen the sulfur shelf almost every year since then, somewhere in the woods.  The last few years it has been while leading the "Sunrise With Songbirds" walks at World Bird Sanctuary.  Last year there was a tree by the middle bird feed station that had 20 or so layers of this orange mushroom. Catherine Redfern, a coworker at WBS, mentioned there was one by our last Eagle Exhibit on the left. It has since faded to white.

Like a kiss, you can put this mushroom to your lips.  It is considered one of the edibles by the publication put out by the Missouri Department of Conservation called "Mushrooms" copyright 1983.  Though I must warn you that both of the publications I read mentioned that it can cause sickness in some individuals, or a mild allergic reaction like swollen lips.

I love this Fungus Amongus...there I said it, had to say it in an article about Mushrooms.  You can see this orange mushroom in the summer or fall and it is widely distributed thoughout North America.

When you see something so beautiful, your mind often can remember the place and people you were with the first time you saw it.  Sulfur Shelf or Chicken Mushroom is the most beautiful mushroom I've experienced.  I hope you see one soon.

Text and photo submitted by Michael Zeloski, Naturalist, World Bird Sanctuary

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