Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Tour of the Forest Floor

In the rest of the world they have Great Walls and huge redwoods and enormous elephants. In the rest of the world there are pet cats that can eat small dogs and small dogs that fight with giant rats.

Here in the Netherlands, though, there are fungi. (Birds, too, but that's a later post--as in, "after I've saved up two months' salary and have taught myself how to shoot with a zoom lens longer than I am tall") In good years--i.e., years with cool damp summers that rot blackberries on the vine--you can get an impressive array of fungal growths on the forest, not the least of which include the kleverig koralzwammetje ("sticky coral fungus", or calocera viscosa).

These little lovelies sprout up mostly in the autumn, but even the big ones--as in, bigger than your head--can be surprisingly difficult to see if you're not looking for them. It might surprise you that something as vividly colored as the paarse pronkridder ("purple gaudy knight"--don't ask--Calocybe ionides) is actually extremely difficult to spot in a sea of brown decaying leaves.

Nevertheless, they are very common, and if you take the time to look, you will find them, and just about any fungus I've posted here. Including the infamous puntig kaalkopje, better known by its English name "Magic Mushrooms". These little suckers are only about one inch tall, so you've really got to look for them, but according to our friends who are well-versed in this matter, they are quite literally as common as weeds. And no, we did not smoke the one I've photographed. First of all, it was only one, and secondly, well, it was only one.

My boyfriend claims to be able to smell fungi in the air, so whenever we decide to go on a photo-jaunt through the Heumenbos nearby, I take him and my camera. He'll tell me, "I smell fungi," and I'll ready my camera. Actually they're not that hard to smell--I can whiff them, too. But only if there's a substantial lot of rot nearby. Rotting trees and humus is always a safe bet for interesting specimens, such as these parelstuifzwammen ("pearl-studded fungus", Lycoperdon perlatum).

But sometimes all you really have to do is look. We almost stepped on these vroege bekerzwam ("early cup-fungus", Peziza vesiculosa)just before my boyfriend grabbed me and pointed.

And of course, we have the infamous Amanitas muscaria, the real "Magic mushroom", in my opinion--people used to steep them in milk and set it out for the flies, as a fly-killer (the pretty red ones are always the deadly ones). I suppose they stopped using this when lawsuits came into existence and people could get sued for poisoning cats and small children as well. It's said that the Vikings used to take them (probably not neat) before combat because it induced some kind of psychedelic rage and made them impermeable to pain. Mostly they're known for killing people who don't know any better. These days you can buy the likeness of Amanitas in the Blokker, as a mushroom-bank, or as a tchotchka. I suppose it's a good thing people aren't more aware of nature--it's kind of like having a Jeffry Dahmer action figure on display in a kindergarten.

So that's what I've been up to these past couple weekends. See if you can see these for yourself!


  1. These are great pictures. I too can smell fungi. I hate the taste of them. I will seriously start gagging (at the least) if one even enters my mouth unknowingly. So I guess no magic mushrooms for me hehe. I do, however, love the look of fungi in general and love taking pictures of them.

  2. Thanks! A 50 mm macro lens is a lovely thing :-)

    I can't say I'd like to try any of these--they're listed as "oneetbaar" or "giftig" in my guidebook. So your natural propensity for fungal avoidance is probably standing you in better Darwinian stead than min :-)

  3. Really nice photos and commentary!

  4. @ Dave: Thanks! It always makes me a little, though, that you can't eat any of the really pretty ones ;-)