Ferns aren’t the only plant that are happy on Roundtop this summer. With all the rain (more last night, more later today), the mushrooms and fungus are doing extra well, too. Today’s photo is of the cutely named orange pinwheel mushroom.
Pinwheels come is several colors, including white, pink and rusty. All are tiny members of the marasimus family. I haven’t been able to find much information about them. Edibility is listed in several places as "unknown," which leads me to translate this into not yet being able to find anyone who is brave enough to try one. I don’t blame people for that, given how poisonous so many mushrooms are.
They seem to range between Canada and the Carolinas, but information about how common they are within that range is lacking. They appear from July through October and are considered to play a vital role in breaking down the litter layer, especially in the oak-hickory woods of eastern North America, which of course fits Roundtop perfectly. This plant continues its work even during hot and dry years, so perhaps that explains why it is suddenly so numerous in a season that has been cooler and wetter than typical. One expert helpfully reported 60+ species in the family and to "not expect to identify the species."
Another interesting note is that during dry seasons, the mushrooms simply shrivel up and wait. Apparently, if you pick one then and plop it into water, it will soon revive and be ready to go to work on that leaf litter again pretty soon.
For me, finding out about the mushroom is fun but kind of non-essential. I just appreciate occasionally seeing something that isn’t green in the middle of the summer forest.