The forest floor

IMG_9563.JPGThe soccer field at my elementary school in Springfield, Missouri, was nothing but a patch of bare, reddish dirt, and it was my favorite part of the place. I liked soccer just fine, but the real reasons for my affection were the thousands of dime-sized rocks caked into its surface. Almost all of them were imprinted with fossils: tiny grid-like bryozoan colonies, striated mollusk shells, cylindrical crinoids the size of pencil erasers, all remnants of an ancient sea. I was 7 years old and could spend half an hour after school crouched over the gritty dirt excavating these treasures with my fingertips, saving the most striking ones for my collection.

That’s all to say keeping an eye out for the small and overlooked underfoot has been my jam for pretty much forever. How could I possibly resist the yellow slime mold above? I’d only seen these weird organisms in textbooks before this moment. It might look like a fungus, but it’s actually the result of countless microbes literally fusing together into one huge cell that can move around and even learn, at least in some senses of the word.

Other denizens of Devil’s Den State Park’s forest floor don’t have the same flair, but I still love them.

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IMG_0020.JPGThis unsettling phenomenon seems to be guttation, which is apparently just the excretion of excess water — one more thing I’d only seen in books before now.

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IMG_0025.JPGAfter almost four years photographing the woods around here, they’re still surprising me. Thanks for looking.

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Mushrooming III

IMG_9511.JPGSome real warmth is finally here, and warmth plus rain means hidden networks of tiny fungus filaments in the forest floor are popping out mushrooms. I’ve already paid tribute to the variety and strange, sometimes slimy beauty of these little toadstools here and here, but still the Ozarks have new kinds to show me, including the above beauties at the entrance of a Devil’s Den State Park cave.

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IMG_9512.JPGI hope you had a good Memorial Day weekend — thanks for stopping by.

Dan

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Underfoot

IMG_5215.JPGIt’s time for another verse in my ode to those diverse, colorful and often unnoticed decomposers of the forest: mushrooms. If you’d like to read more about them, check out my first fungus hunt. Otherwise, take a look at some Devil’s Den gems for a little break from the madness in the news. There’s also a spider making its web, because it’s neat. Thanks for looking, everybody.

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