For the last several days, fall colors at their peak have truly wowed us in Exeter. Whenever we are in the car, I grab my smartphone in an attempt to capture the brilliance of yellows and reds. I should just stop doing that because 90% of my photos are either a blur OR the sad trees have been directionally pruned around power lines by NHDOT.
This weekend, a quick errand to the P.O. gave me a view of the most stunning sugar maple I’ve seen thus far… growing in front of the old Congregational Church. We were creeping along with others pointing and gawking at the tree so I was fortunate not to end up with another iPhone photo smudge.
I was not alone in my drive-by photography. I saw two photographers with big cameras capturing images of the tree from the sidewalks. Maybe I’ll see those images later on a postcard or blog post.
The river is high but it’s back within its banks where it belongs. Ida left us with plenty of clean up jobs around the yard and the gardens which will take some time to finish.
As payment for our toils and perhaps to make up for the terrible Nor’easter, Mother Nature rewarded us with an explosion of reds and yellows in the few trees left with leaves around the yard. The color season has really come to a close in Tidewater but whether this was Mother Nature’s apology or not, it sure made us whistle while we worked on Nor’Ida’s clean up.
You can’t help stopping to admire mushrooms this year. A wet and humid season has them growing in a variety of habitats in all shapes, colors and types. Some grow alone, some in rings, and some in clusters. Interesting to look at, beautiful to photograph, but because they are very tricky to identify, harvesting a wild mushroom for food should be left to the experts. I have read that only ten percent of mushrooms are tasty and edible and five to ten percent are toxic to humans. The rest simply taste bad.
Although they were abundant in the spring and summer, when the leaves begin to turn colors in autumn is a great time to take a mushroom pilgrimage in a woods near you. Mushrooms are all spore-producing structures of fungi and nearly all are beneficial as they break down organic matter that is necessary for plant growth. They can decompose wood, leaves, and dead grass. Fungi can form beneficial partnerships with trees while some can be pathogenic and others are merely benign.
My knowledge of fungi is scant. Yes, someday I’d like to broaden my fungal horizon and learn how to identify these beautiful mushrooms but I’ll never bet my life on which ones I can eat. There are no hard and fast rules or tests to distinguish edible from deadly. The old adage, “There are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters” is one that runs through my head.
Simply notice them or photograph them on your next woodland walk and you will be amazed at the abundance in Virginia. A good standard reference to stick in your back pocket is Peterson’s A Field Guide to Mushrooms:North America, where you will find mushrooms identified by names like sponge, inkycaps, waxycaps, jelly or smut fungi.
After days of warm, dry weather, a cold front moved into Virginia over the weekend, dropping temperatures to the 50′s and bringing us a trace of rain. We woke this morning to a landscape filled with attention grabbing golds and yellows. Here’s what I saw on my walk today:
It won’t be long before the ginkgo leaves turn lemon yellow, then all fall in a day’s time to cover the ground like melted butter.
Crape myrtles frame mr. gardener’s winter vegetable garden in yellows and golds.
Yellows from maples, poplars, and hickories greet us on the lane.