Wild TR: The Connectors

by Tricia Kyzer

The late summer air is so thick with humidity you could stick a butter knife in it.

Clouds spend the day gathering up the moisture like farmers, only to dump it all out in one short release, watering the thirsty ground and briefly cooling the air. This is the perfect setting for the underground network in our community to begin surfacing.

Yes, stranger things are lurking beneath the surface of Travelers Rest.

 

Connectors 1

 

There is a silent network leaving no property untouched. This system is intelligent, reliable, and communicative. It has a mission and it will persist! Don’t worry, it poses no threat to us. In fact, we all benefit from its presence.

This network is composed of mycelium, masses of branching thread-like hyphae. These are the  great subterranean connectors of land life. Although they look like roots, fungi are more closely related to lobsters than plants. We recognize these living organisms when, inspired by the heat and humidity, they begin to push their fruits above ground in the form of mushrooms.  

Here in our neck of the woods fungi, like people, come in a surprising diversity. We are all familiar with the typical toadstool shape, but have you seen the gem studded puffballs? Or the chanterelles pushing through the soil like golden flowers? Or turkey tails stacked on a log?

 

Turkey Tails

 

Their colors are also varied, ranging from forest floor brown to flame orange and from vivid cobalt blue to soft purple. Bearing common names like fairy wands, jack-o-lanterns, stinking squid, and elfin saddles the imagination is inspired and a walk in the woods becomes a treasure hunt. If you really want to appreciate the fungal community, get down on eye level and look at the miniature coral reef thriving on the forest floor.

Of course, the first question everyone has when they see a mushroom is “Can I eat it?

The answer is you can eat anything once, right?

In all seriousness, there are many edible mushrooms in our area. And some that are very easily identifiable. Chanterelles, chicken of the woods, and lion’s mane are delectable and commonly found. If you do choose to eat any local fungi, make sure you have a knowledgeable mentor or guide to help ensure you don’t die. And while foraging for local mushrooms can be a nutritious and delicious pastime, the value of fungi in our community offers more to us than a food source.

 

Contenders 4

 

These underground networks are keeping our forests and fields healthy.

When I see these fungi fruiting above the ground, I am comforted by the work that is being done underground. Isn’t that how it is in life? The fruit is truly the beautiful result of all the work that has been happening behind the scenes.

Underground those mycelium are the workers mining for minerals, the connectors relaying messages from tree to tree through their roots, and the central hub sharing resources among the forest. A healthy forest has fungi. Just like a healthy community has people who are working hard behind the scenes to make the magic happen.

Travelers Rest is a place where there are many connectors collaborating and building to make our world a better place, seen and unseen. 

 

Connectors 5

 

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Want to read more about Wild TR through Tricia’s eyes?

Check out these other posts:

Wild TR: Farms & Cow Pastures

Wild TR: A Trillium Tale

Wild TR: Look to the Mountains

Wild TR: Mountain Magic

Wild TR: Introducing the Bloodroot

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