If you follow this blog or any of my photo hosting sites, you know I’ve been photographing mushrooms for a long time. They’re so fascinating and come in so many shapes, sizes and colors that they’re an easy target. Especially if you’ve got a macro lens!
Now I’m out here in Wisconsin, nothing’s changed except maybe that there are more mushrooms and I’ve found some varieties I’ve never seen before. Not so with this little beauty commonly known as the chanterelle waxcap. Here’s an image from 2011 of what I believe is the same species –
What a beauty. At the time I shot it I didn’t have any mushroom field guides and tried to use the internet to get an ID. Impossible. Lately I’ve acquired a couple of books and borrowed some from the library and let me tell you; mushroom identification is wicked hard. Even with 4 books and Google, I sometimes can’t get it. These though have a dead giveaway that makes them stand out from others like them.
See where the cap attaches to the stem? The gills extend a little bit downward. That’s the clue! Otherwise, check out how much they change as they mature. You could convince yourself they’re not the same kind at all. They’re named for their resemblence to the cantharellus species – chanterelles – the super-tasty edible mushroom worth more than its weight in gold. Unlike those fab fungi, I wouldn’t try eating these.
Some of the other ways you can ID chanterelle waxcaps (and other mushrooms) are by cap and color characteristics. In this case the cap is often dry, tends to be flat and depressed with edges that can be wavy. The color ranges from reddish-orange to yellow. One way to eliminate a species from your possibles is by where it grows, or more technically, on what it fruits. Hygrocybe cantharellus mostly fruits on the ground in woods that don’t dry out too much. All but one of these shots show them on the ground, so I’m forgiving of the one on the dead tree; mostly because it has those descending gills.
More mushroom posts will probably be forthcoming since I shoot so many of them. Sometimes when I’m walking through the woods I have to tell myself that I don’t have to photograph every mushroom I see. So hard!!
I found some!!
I found some!!
I barely know where to start this post other than to say that anyone witnessing me photographing these would have thought me crazy. It was almost an act of reverence. The fact that they were in a messy state and jammed up next to a pile of dead branches made it difficult to deal with them, but damn, I found some. Like the nut that I am, I took a picture with my phone and emailed my husband about it. He was happy for me, but probably relieved, too, that he wasn’t with me and didn’t have to stand around doing nothing but watch me for who knows how long. He gets enough of that as it is.
After I stopped my happy dance and restarted my heart (just kidding), the first thing that struck me is how different they are from the type I found earlier this year. Clearly there are big differences with this flower and what I found this time was the late blooming type, which in my book was pictured exactly this color and this size. They’re really that bright. Honest. No hue or saturation sliders were abused during the processing. And they’re little – the size of typical indian pipe which is 3-5 inches high. The other type is much larger.
Despite all my reference sources saying there are two genetically distinct varieties of this plant, they both have the same scientific name – Monotropa hypopitys. There is also Sweet Pinesap (Monotropsis odorata) which only grows in the mid-Atlantic states. It mostly resembles the early blooming type, but also has two blooming seasons itself. The later one is lilac colored, but unlike its earlier blooming friends it has no fragrance (it hangs onto that name though). Its flowers come outof crisp little wrappers, too. That would be really cool to see. Maybe someday.
As you can see, not a scrap of green on these babies which makes them saprophytic. Like others in this family, pinesap is a mycotroph which means it uses fungus in the soil to facilitate the transfer of nutrients, sometimes directly from the roots of nearby plants.
While I worked with the flowers, I lost track of time and luckily no one came by. Considering the number of dogs in this conservation property, I’m shocked the flowers were still there and not destroyed. They were right on the side of the trail.
When I left, I gently covered them with a fallen branch that still had leaves on it; better to protect them maybe, I don’t know. I hope they live to be pollinated and can spread their seeds around so they come up again next year. So long as the fungus doesn’t die, either.
As you probably figured, the Olympus 90mm was on duty for this momentous event.
Even with the naked eye they are fuzzy, unlike indian pipe which has smooth petals. I don’t know if the yellow or early blooming pinesap is also fuzzy, but I think it is judging by the ones I found. Reminds me of the differences between nectarines and peaches. Both are sweet and talismans of summer and I hope I get to savor them again next year.
A couple of weeks ago, the Piscataquog Land Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy hosted an event at the Manchester Cedar Swamp preserve. Since it was in one of my favorite bits of protected property and was about mushroom hunting, I was all over it. Reta McGregor kindly donated her time and expertise and I learned quite a bit, including which parts of a bolete mushroom are edible (hint, not the spongy part). I even found a mushroom she’d never seen before. It was a toothed mushroom and very lovely. Anyway, I got there a bit early and did some scouting with the OM 90mm. In addition to a bounty of mushrooms, there were newts and indian pipe. Alas, no newts would pose for me, but I still had a nice time and found some worthies.
Two different species in the same genus and they were everywhere. I didn’t manage to ID everything though. These two still elude me. I think I need to get a few more mushroom books. They can look so different during their lives, that I think you need to have many photos to compare with. With my one book, it’s hit or miss.
In one section of forest there was a good crop of late-flowering indian pipe and a few of them were blushing mightily.
It’s the year for arriving late to the pinesap party. After years of looking for this unusual flower I found the mother lode in Weare, NH. OMG they were everywhere, but just past their full bloom stage. Darn it. You can bet I won’t be late next year.
Now this time I really mean it.
Hard to find. Hidden. Fugitive. Intangible.
I’ve been hunting this flower ever since I became fascinated with its cousin the indian pipe. That was in 2011. Since that time I have found it once.
Once. (shades of Johnny Dangerously)
It was in Hollis NH and the flowers were long gone by. Just dry brown sticks. So I revisited the following year.
Zip. Zilch. Nada.
But then. On a spontaneous trip to the Musquash with my husband. Lo – Pinesap.
Irony of Ironies that I should find my most sought-after wildflower (well, kinda…the list is long) practically in my own backyard. My surrogate backyard is how I usually refer to the Musquash. It was right on the edge of one of the main trails, standing tall and proud in its pale glory. Stopped me in my tracks I can tell you. My husband thought I was nuts, but he understood as he’s heard me wax poetic about this strange flower many times. Good thing he didn’t have his phone with him or he’d have really good blackmail footage of my dance of joy. Pretty much for the rest of our walk he would hear me say, in a dreamy monotone “pinesap”.
Another irony is that I missed the blooming by days. The flowers are not quite dried up, but appear to have been pollinated and are past their prime. Like indian pipe, this flower lacks chlorophyll and so isn’t green and produces no leaves since without chlorophyll it cannot photosynthesize energy from sunlight. Instead it uses fungi in the soil to tap root systems of other plants to siphon energy for themselves. The plants I found are almost a foot high. I couldn’t believe how big they were.
My guide book says that there are early and late-blooming specimens and that they are actually different species. They bloom from June to November and I found these in August. That probably makes them early given the fact that NH is a northern state. In addition to being bigger, another difference from indian pipe is that there are multiple blossoms per stem. Check it out –
Sure, they’re not the loveliest things in the world, but they’re so interesting. They’re supposed to propagate well once the seeds have been scattered and judging by that group up there, we’ve got a lot of seeds to spread. I’ve already put a reminder in my calendar to check back next year. I know right where they are so can go to them fast.
Another name for pinesap is false beech-drops, another saprophytic flower that I’ve tried to photograph in the past, with somewhat limited success (mostly because I missed the blooming). The other day I founds some hanging out with ferns and it really made them stand out (plus they were actually fresh). Normally they blend right in with the undergrowth and because each flower is only 1/2 an inch long when bloomed, they tend to get really lost. This is as good as I could do given the conditions (basically I was on a slope of a ditch next to a snowmobile trail).
Like other plants without chlorophyll, beechdrops exist as parasites on beech tree root systems. They’re self-fertilizing and spread like crazy.
So anyway…expect to see pinesap again next summer. I’m going to try to be diligent about finding them in their early stages with lush blossoms. I’m so excited!
Yeah, fall is supposed to be all about the foliage, but I always like to buck a trend.
Mushrooms offer endless subjects these days and hiking with me is basically an exercise in watching me put the camera on the beanbag and shoot another one. Since I always use natural light, sometimes I have to wait for the light to be right, or use things to hand to adjust and filter the light. Hemlock branches and ferns are the best for this since the patterns they make are broken up and variable. For this one I used the branch of the tree I was crouched under to ease the harshness of the sun, which I needed for the shot, but wanted to soften.
Even though I take a naturalist approach with microscapes and close-ups, I do clean up a scene when I need to. Pine needles, leaves, sticks – if they’re distracting, they go. It’s unusual that I don’t have to do a little primping on every shot, but I didn’t need to do any for this one. Just had to wait for the right moment. The light was shifting madly with the wind in the trees and the passing clouds and so I just waited until it gave me what I wanted.
This next little scene is one of my favorites. I did get rid of a couple of sticks on the log that were sticking up into that greeny/golden glow, but the leaves were exactly as I found them and again waiting for just the right light paid off. I didn’t want it too bright and total shade was just flat and dull. Backlighting just adds a luminosity that only natural light can give.
I should really try to find a good mushroom guide. Not that I’m planning on eating any (not that brave or suicidal), but I like to know what I’m photographing and other than Hemlock Varnish Shelf, Chanterelles, Amanitas and a couple others, I have no clue which is which. I have found a decent online resource, but even that is confusing. So many types are so similar to each other that I can’t tell the difference. If anyone knows of an online resource that’s easy to use and accurate, or can recommend a book for the northeastern US, please let me know.
Anyway…mushroom season will continue for a while yet. Until the first hard frost at least, so you probably haven’t seen the last of them.
By now you must know how much I love indian pipe wildflowers and how even though my original project was for one season, I still shoot them almost every time I see them. Usually they bloom in June and sometimes spill over into July. But October? October?!
Yes, I did place one of those leaves back there, but not both. And they were right to hand. I’m not above a little manipulation to make the shot work better. Don’t you dig the pine needles though? Oh I love this one. It’s funny, I noticed an older one first; one that had already turned brown and then this one showed itself and boy did I go to work. So much fun.
The day of my epic face-plant yielded another present that I would have definitely missed had I gone home. All three of you that read this thing know that I had (have) a mini-project (obsession) going with Indian pipe flowers. I don’t know what it is about these luminous beauties, but I am so drawn to them. So when I was walking by the Piscataquog I found the biggest, most densely-populated swath of them I’ve ever seen. Seriously. There were so many little groups it was like a game of twister for me to not step on any while crouching under hemlock branches trying for microscapes. It was worth it though because not only was the light lickable, but the flowers were almost all pink! Pink! I don’t think in all of the time I’ve been photographing these have I seen really pink ones. So great.
As these are pretty common flowers (apart from the columbine, which I shot a few weeks ago) I’m not including them in the elusive category. Popular and ubiquitous or not though, I can’t resist them.
How did that last one get in there??
If you hang around this blog you’ll quickly realize I love the woods. Forests of all stripes and ecologies fascinate and enchant me. Mostly I look for the small scenes and tiny things that are often overlooked. This year I want to also try to show the larger view of why I hang out in the woods so much. The trees, the stone walls (at least here in New England), the boulders and rock formations, the light – all of it comes together to soothe and enliven. Here are some recent shots that I hope get the point across.
This first one is kind of experimental. I was out with the OM 35mm f2 lens and playing with depth of field and while it isn’t perfect, I like the freshness and the ‘good dream’ quality.
I don’t know if it works, but I’ll keep trying as the season progresses. As always I have my eyes on the ground, too. Better to keep from tripping over roots and rocks and for spying some of my latest obsession – sporophytes!!
These are wicked small – the tallest is barely 1 inch. I was attracted by the red color and was delighted to see they look like wee spoons. Never saw them before and the light was just so amazing I had to try for a shot. I wish I could have gotten a bit more depth of field, but this shot is already at f16 which is the outer limit for the 90mm’s sweet spot, so it will have to do. I am still torn about those white pine needles in the foreground; do they distract too much?? I left them in to show scale and the light changed so quickly that just a few minutes after I took this, all was in shade so I moved on without taking a shot with them removed.
The light is what attracts me to shoot these and when I spied this next little group I had to move fast. At these small scales pockets of sunlight disappear in seconds. Really keeps me on my toes…or should I say knees? I’d have liked to frame this one a bit better, but literally ran out of time. In about a minute, the earth turned and those snakey little sporophytes were in the same shade as the background. Isn’t the color just fab though?
I hope that this kind of pressure situation improves my initial instincts for this type of photography. Part of being a good photographer is developing a kind of muscle memory about certain conditions – you know, that grab shot that is so hit or miss that most of us miss. Sometimes though, I catch a break, and the light remains long enough for me to finesse things. This next shot, while of a flower that is everywhere (ubiquitous…don’t you love that word??), I worked it pretty hard, changing lenses, angles and finally the background to isolate just two blooms. Quotidian, yes, but I like it anyway. Bluets just seem so cheery to me.
So back to one of my original thoughts in this post; showing the larger view. Here’s a shot, again taken with the OM 35mm f2, of one of my favorite sections of trail in my local conservation area. The white pines are packed in so tightly that only their upper branches have life. Almost nothing can live in the highly acidic soil that is almost constantly shaded. The inches deep mat of needles is soft and springy underfoot. I always stop here and bounce slightly on my toes enjoying the feeling of hiding in plain sight.
Again, I’m not sure it works, but because I walk there often, I feel its effect on me. Encapsulating and secretive. I just found a disused trail in this area, and since it’s high up on a granite ledge, I think that some leafy/canopy views might be possible as the trees leaf out. Stay tuned!