A Forest Mushroom Walk…

Throughout the temperate regions of this planet, a walk through the forest during Autumn is likely to present a magestic, ‘bemushroomed’ landscape to those paying attention. It can unearth sensations within us that we may have neglected to acknowledge since early childhood – feelings of being in a real-life fairytale or some magical fantasy epic. Connecting with our natural surroundings during periods of seasonal transition can genuinely enliven the senses and activate even the dustiest of imaginations… it can provide genuine medicine for the spirit!

Sharing a moment with the giant Ganoderma applanatum...
Sharing a moment with the giant Ganoderma applanatum…

On a more practical note, many of these fungi possess an array of medicinal compounds that we too can benefit from. It’s no coincidence that they spring up from below ground level, armed with immune-enhancing properties and detoxification benefits at exactly the same time as we find ourselves annually swamped with colds, flu and other contagions. What does that tell us? It says that we are not separate from nature – we have an interdependent relationship with our surroundings. If we take just a little time to observe and listen, we can witness messages coming directly from nature – messages about healing and remaining healthy and strong during an often difficult transition. Mushrooms are part of this message.

The ecosystem is undergoing an autumnal metamorphosis – letting go of that which it no longer needs and preparing for the long, cold hibernation of winter. There is a similar shift occurring within us at the same time, although we may not notice it right away. The forest ecology is vulnerable at times like this, and mushrooms appear to help steward the collective species of plants and animals through the transition. They recycle the baggage that is no longer useful and turn it into valuable nutrients that build soil humus and correspondingly enrich the vitality and diversity of the area as a whole.

We walked for a while in an area of forest close to where we live just a few days ago and came across an incredibly active and medicinally potent site, where two trees had seemingly been struck down by lightning, leaving the area charged with fertile abundance. There were so many different species of fungi growing on the same two trees. It was amazing! Here is just a small amount of what was there, all in the same small enclosure:

Ganoderma applanatum2

Ganoderma applanatum.
Ganoderma applanatum.
Ganoderma applanatum4
Ganoderma applanatum.

Ganoderma applanatum (above) is a member of the Reishi family and can become extremely large – it survives as long as it can feed from its host, and in many cases this mushroom can surpass half a century in age! These particular specimens were at least a couple of decades old – their age being revealed by the rings on the upper surface of the fruiting body. Like trees, these fungi add a new ring of growth every year. As you might expect from a member of the Reishi family this particular Ganoderma species is an excellent medicinal, with immune benefits, tumour-inhibiting compounds and anti-parasitic properties. It’s also known as the famous Artist’s Conk, because the underside bruises very easily when fresh and remains bruised for many years even when dried, so people throughout the ages have etched their artistic creativity onto this mushroom by using it as a canvas…

Noémie inhales spores from Ganoderma applanatum.
Noémie inhales spores from Ganoderma applanatum.
Amethyst Deceiver.
Amethyst Deceiver.

The Amethyst Deceiver – (Laccaria amethystina) has a mycorrhizal relationship with Oak and Beech trees which means that it has a symbiotic relationship with the roots of these trees. It can be found in quite a broad territory throughout the northern hemisphere – I found this mushroom for the first time a few years ago and it was bioluminescent – the cap was actually glowing and emitting light! HERE IS A VIDEO you can watch of the time I made that discovery. Although small, it is edible and has a very high antioxidant content, lowers excessively high blood pressure and is good at chelating heavy metals from the body.

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor).
Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor).

Turkey Tail – (Trametes versicolor) was growing in relative abundance on a log adjoining the main stump that the giant Ganoderma applanatum were growing on. These mushrooms are not considered edible and are ignored by many mushroom enthusiasts foraging in the wild, but the truth is these are some of the most potent medicinal mushrooms that exist! They are known to have many immune-enhancing polysaccharides that are also antiviral and offer a number of anti-tumour/anti-cancer properties. They are also particularly rich in a compound called ergosterol which readily converts into vitamin D2 when the mushrooms are dried in full sunlight with the porous underside facing upwards. There are many stories of people treating HIV and healing from cancer when including this mushroom in their overall healing strategy. This is one of the most diverse mushrooms on the planet, thriving in a wide array of different climates and displaying an endless combination of different colours (hence the name ‘versicolor’)…

Black Bulgar (Bulgaria inquinans).
Black Bulgar (Bulgaria inquinans).

Bulgaria inquinans2

Black Bulgar (Bulgaria inquinans) initially grows in groups of black discs (see photo), turning into brown coloured cup shaped fruiting bodies before maturing into a blob-like jelly fungus. It most commonly grows on felled Oaks, but can also be found on Sweet Chestnut, Beech and Ash trees that have fallen. It’s pretty common throughout Europe and North America during Autumn/Winter, but despite its apparent reputation as a delicacy in China, it isn’t celebrated as an edible anywhere else it seems. It’s definitely an interesting looking mushroom though – at first glance it looks like thousands of black, leathery butterflies all gathered together…

orange mushrooms

Not 100% sure what these are but the were (above) growing inside the same tree that the Black Bulgar was covering the surface of. The cap has a very pretty colour though.

Candlesnuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)

The Candlesnuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon) is very common throughout the UK and many parts of Europe. It isn’t generally considered to be edible and I’m not sure if it possesses any health benefits as a medicinal mushroom, but like the Amethyst Deceiver it is a bioluminescent fungus. It can often be seen emitting a faint light during the dark, early nights of winter…

All of the fungi above (plus many more) were all growing on the same dying/dead wood, all together as an intimate community. It was genuinely a marvel to behold. A power spot, charged with a very special energy. We can receive immense benefit from inviting medicinal mushrooms into our lives, but the mere discovery of places such as this can bring genuine healing all by itself…

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