October 19, 2011

Believe it or not, this is a beautiful mushroom often called a "turkey tail." It has a scientific name too, but one not nearly as easy to remember: Trametes versicolor. I took this picture of a turkey tail growing on a rotting piece of wood just off the road near my house. It’s a common mushroom found anywhere there are dead and rotting trees and stumps in woods. The colors are variable but are usually brown and reddish brown. The mushrooms have zones of color and the surface is velvety.

There are a number of other mushrooms that look very similar and are lumped together by collectors as "turkey tails."

Here’s another picture of a quite different looking mushroom called a puffball. 

There are many different kinds of puffballs, from tiny ones that grow in clusters on trees or in circles called "fairy rings" in gardens or meadows. These puffballs in my garden are about an inch or two in diameter. But a few kinds of puffball mushrooms are over a foot across.

If you slice open a puffball, it contains either flesh or, if it’s dried out, spore dust. I advise you NOT to eat any kind of mushroom that you find growing in the woods because they are hard to identify one from another and some kinds of mushrooms are poisonous. If you have touched a puffball or other wild mushroom, be sure to wash your hands well with hot water and soap.

The autumn is a great time to get out and explore. If you would like to learn more and find interesting kinds of life, click here to download a simple, fun Seymour Science project called LIFE IN A ROTTING LOG. Happy exploring!

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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