While my father is resting in the afternoons, my sister and I have been going out on what we've been calling "photo safaris." Yesterday, I wanted to photograph some of the many, many strange mushrooms I've been noticing. I had never been in Provence in the fall, and was unprepared for how lush and green everything is. This is in stark contrast to my previous experiences of sun-baked vineyards and olive groves, fields of lavender and mustard, and huge plantings of rosemary. I've thought of this place as very arid, but I have to revise my thinking.
I uploaded these photos to an online mushroom hunting forum, to solicit thoughts about identification. This orange mushroom seems to be oozing "milk" from its gills. Perhaps it is a Milk Cap mushroom. If time permits, I may got back and collect a specimen, and try to make a "spore print." The color of a mushroom's spores offer many clues as to it's identity.
Also, take note of the tiny mushroom on the bottom-right side of the photograph. The biodiversity of this region is amazing!
As I said, Provence is known for its lavender, from which delicious soaps are made. (The French word "laver" means "to wash.") But who knew that there were also lavender mushrooms?
How about this Jelly Fungus, tentatively identified as Witches' Butter? My sister observed how this fungus offered interesting insight into our current interests in life: She thought it looked like cake icing, while I saw a similarity to a sea-slug's butt. Sadly, regular blog readers will not be surprised by this...
My friend Minette pointed out that these tiny (less than a quarter of an inch) mushrooms are probably Birds' Nest Mushrooms. With luck, they will open up to reveal tiny "eggs." I'm going to keep on eye on this pine cone that I picked up while walking with Anne. You have to click here to see what they will look like. Very cool!
Now things get really weird! I think this is some kind of Slime Mold, which isn't a fungus at all, but tends to get lumped with fungi in field guides. Again, Martha offered a brilliant observation. She saw this as some kind of crazy heart.
This, I think is the part of the life cycle that gives a slime mold it's name. It really was very slimy and gelatinous! I had never seen anything like this.
While we were walking, we ran into a gentleman who was collecting mushrooms. My French is pretty appalling, but he showed us what he had found. Two varieties of medium-large flat-topped fleshy mushrooms, a light charcoal-y grey mushroom called a "gris-something) and a variety that had a sort of whitish-tan color and was called "sangre-something." The white grocery store bag he was transporting the mushrooms in really did look bloody.
Also, we saw evidence that wild boars had been tearing up the ground, looking for something. Grubs? Mushrooms? Dare I imagine that they were rooting around for truffles?
I'm told that in France when you collect mushrooms, you go to the local pharmacy where there's always someone on staff who will tell you if what you've found is safe to eat or not. How civilized is that?