June 20 – farewell spring, hello summer!

On this, the last day of spring, I finally had a bit of free time to get out and about.    In the morning, I was finishing the shittake log inoculation, but before that, I  spent an hour walking through the woods “across the creek,” and here’s some of what I saw:

The first thing to point out is something that I mostly didn’t see or hear.  The 17-year cicadas, which emerged at the beginning of May and have sharing our woods by the billion over the past six weeks, are nearly gone.  Mostly, you can’t hear them, although there are still a few small pockets of cicada buzz.  I only saw one of them today, and soon won’t see any.  I actually quite enjoyed having the cute little buggers around, and am a bit sad that I have to wait another 17 years to hear their sweet buzz and taste their crunchy flesh!

The boletes are beginning to come up, which I find somewhat exciting.  In past years, I wasn’t quite knowledgeable or confident enough to eat them, but this year, I’m ready (cautiously of course).  This spotted bolete looked good from a distance…Image

and it looked good close up (actually, this is a different one, growing a couple feet from the first)Image

but when I cut them open, they had already been discovered by WORMS!  So I let it be.  Alas, no bolete for me this morning.Image

Found what I believe to be a funnel clitocybe , which is an edible species, but I’m going to play it safe until I’m 100% sure I know what it is.Image

Up near the border to the neighbor’s woods, I came across this unfortunate beast, which has been reduced to no more than a pile of bones, a stain on the leaves, and a lingering unpleasant odor.Image

I crossed the fence over onto the neighbor’s woods, where a perimeter path made the walking much easier.  It was turning into a pretty hot day out in the sunshine, but the forest remained shady and pretty cool.Image

This week, for the first time, I’m seeing many many species of unfamiliar mushroom in the woods and lawns.  I spent way too much time yesterday afternoon trying to ID the species I found in the morning, some successfully, and some unsuccessfully.  This one had free gills, a ring, a white cap, and chocolate brown gills.  The only matches I could find in my field guide were ones that grow on lawns in late summer.  I’m totally confounded, and I think that now that it’s summertime, I am just going to have to accept that I won’t be able to ID most of the mushrooms I encounter– maybe I can focus on learning just one new one every few days.  Image

Crossing back into Twin Oaks’ forest, an unusually pretty stand of oak treesImage

In this stand of forest, I was startled by what at first I thought was an egg on the ground.  On closer inspection, it is a large white mushroom just beginning to emerge.Image

Once I saw the first one, I noticed that they were coming up all over this one part of the forest.  I’m guessing that it is one of a whole bunch of deadly white amanitas.  Not the sort of ‘shrooms that you would want to nibble on…Image

Here’s another bunch that I was totally unable to identify.  Check out the big ol’ slug crawling down the one on the right.Image

Along the creek, I encountered a cute scene of bright green moss and cute little boletes, about 10 of them clustered together.Image

Then, just a few steps away, I found my choice prize of the morning, the reward for a mostly fruitless hour of tramping around the woods.  I harvested this handsome specimen and brought it to the kitchen, where it was served up as part of a veggie stir fry for dinner.  Yum!Image

In the afternoon, I was up at the warehouse doing some shipping, and on the way home, I took a meandering route through the forest, where, among other things, I encountered several bunches of this little guy, which I’m guessing is a “fading scarlet waxy cap” or “vermilion waxy sap”, which various guides describe as edible, but without flavor. Image

One thing that I’m just starting to notice, as I scan the forest floor looking for anything unusual, is that the tulip poplars, specifically, are beginning to lose their leaves.  I started noticing a few yellow leaves on the ground about a week ago, and saw enough of them today that I think it’s an actual “thing.”  So there you have it, the last day of spring, and I’m already starting to see fall colors.Image

Closer to home, I encountered this colorful polypore growing from a stump.  I actually photographed this one a couple of weeks ago– it’s interesting to see how it’s grown.  As it is close to my house, I think I’ll wait another two weeks then see what it looks like.Image

Along with the mushroom above, there were two other little stalks growing from the same stump– it will be interesting to see how they all grow over the course of the summer.Image

Just before I got home, my younger son came out to meet me, and we wandered around together, finding more mushrooms (mostly red Russulas) and also a turtle.  It’s great to see how he’s growing up to be such a forest child. Image


We also came across more of these forest flowers, which I’m still unable to identify (which is starting to make me a little crazy).Image

In the Backyard

In addition to my wanderings in the woods, I spent some time on Thursday looking around the back yard, as the last day of spring turned into the first day of summer.  Here’s some of what I observed: 

This purple flower has just come into bloom over the past few days, and the butterflies are loving it! Image

These orange lilies are growing everywhere– in Charlottesville, in all of our ornamental gardens, and in this one enthusiastic cluster in our backyard.  The flower buds, if you pick them just before they open, are good to eat, sweet and tart.Image

Several of our blueberry bushes have yet to ripen, but for some reason, the one right next to the house has loads of ripe berries on it.  I think it’s a different variety, as they berries are much small than the other bushes.  Nice & tasty, though!Image

The gooseberries as well are nice and dark and ready to eat.  As I was picking and enjoying them, I came across another, less welcome sight…Image

Japanese beetles!  These pests flared up a few years ago and denuded everything in the back yard.  My housemates and I responded by going through the yard every morning with a cup of soapy water and picking off as many as we could find.  I think we might have to start doing it again this year, lest we lose all of our precious fruit bushes and trees.Image

ooo how I hate them!Image

Aaaah, how I love raspberries.   This particular variety has unbelievably sweet berries that turn a lovely light pink when ripe.  The berries on this bush lasted about 30 seconds after I took this shot before the children were on them like a swarm of locusts and stripped the bush clean.Image

Our kiwi vine is looking as lush and vigorous as I’ve ever seen it.  We’ve had this vine for about 4 years, and we’ve only been getting fruit for the past two years.  Each year, we’re getting more and more fruit, and this year looks to be another bumper crop.Image

The kiwis on this vine aren’t enormous and fuzzy like the ones you see in the supermarket, but small and green.  When they get soft and wrinkly (usually in September), they’re ready to eat.  The flavor is like an entire supermarket kiwi condensed into one bite–can’t wait to sink my teeth into these!Image


2 responses to “June 20 – farewell spring, hello summer!

  1. I think you can get Identifications on many of your mushrooms from the mushroomobserver.org site. Your mystery flower is spotted wintergreen, a member of the heath family. The butterfly is a Tiger swallowtail. It is the state insect of Virginia, and uses Tulip poplar as a host plant. Great nature photos and narrative!

    • This is so great– ever since I started this journal, I have been hoping that someone knowledgeable would read my wild guesses and help me identify things that I haven’t got the time and/or skill to figure out myself. Thanks for the info!

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