Eye-catchers in the Fall Woods

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by Pat Jaquith

Laetiporus conifericola (Chicken of the Woods) fungus seems to glow in the dark woods in early fall. It’s a real eye-catcher on a gray day!

Chicken of the Woods , L.conifericola is a species of polypore fungus that grows on conifer trees in western North America. It has a counterpart by the same common name (L. sulphureus) that grows on deciduous trees in the eastern U.S. Animals eat it: squirrels break it up into manageable pieces and cache them for winter. One winter day I followed a deer’s tracks directly to a tree where it left crumbs on the snow from its meal, then turned around and went directly away from the tree as if it had deliberately sought out the snack.

Top view of Laetiporus conifericola with last year’s white debris on the ground

Often, the fungal network in a rotting stump will send up flowering parts for several years. This year’s mushroom (9.23.20) is surrounded by crumbs from last year’s mushroom.

The underside of the Chicken of the Woods mushroom is smooth, as is typical of the polypore mushrooms. Those lumps and bumps may be growing points where more layers will form. I hope I get back to see how this one continues to develop! Sometimes they get to be huge!
The brittle white remains of a previous year’s Chicken of the Woods mushroom on a Douglas fir stump.
One can only wonder why the grasshopper chose such a colorful resting place 9.29.20
As Laetiporus conifericola starts to age, the edges look a little toasted.

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