Snowdrops and Last Year's Mushrooms

Gaultheria procumbens: Wintergreen

The air is warm and wet. The snowdrops are sticking their necks out for the spring. Although they stand with bowed heads, these first flowers only bring joy: winter is over. The leaf litter that was frozen a week ago is now soggy and aromatic. At my sit spot, chewing on a wintergreen leaf that persisted through the winter, I spotteda radial of mushrooms from last season. They surrounded a nearby hemlock like spokes on a wheel.

When mushrooms appear to grow out of the very roots of trees, they are probably mycorrhizal. The pair has entered into a mutual agreement. The fungi uses its tiny threadlike hyphae to access water and nutrients, which it funnels toward the tree roots. The tree responds in kind, secreting sugars and carbohydrates from its root tips. There are countless examples of mycorrhizae in the forest, and up to 85% of trees and other vascular plants rely on it. Thank a mycorrhizal mushroom next time you savor the shade of a hemlock or the sap from a sugar maple!

After some research, I concluded the mushrooms on the forest floor were probably of the Russula genus, whose appearance bruises or turns black when damaged. I listened to the crows yelling about me back and forth from two trees overhead, a small ensemble preceding the chorus of spring nesting season.