Mushroom Explosion

Call me obsessed. I probably deserve it. I have spent nearly every evening this week painting nothing but mushrooms, buying field guides, making spore prints, and staying up late trying to identify my finds. In my defense, a treasure trove is growing before me– new species emerging each day under the grove of oaks that line our driveway. And I know that the intense humidity and rain that brings them out, all too quickly turns them to mush. In the end, my obsession stems from being astonished: I have recorded an impressive 26 different species in a single week: classic gilled mushrooms, large and colorful boletes, tiny coral fungi, and ringed polypores.

Consider this: several thousand species of mushrooms are found in the Northeast and upwards of 30,000 in North America. That’s more than all of the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and plants combined. I found identifying them challenging, even maddening, but I learned to look more keenly at key features in the process. It’s likely that I misidentified some and I didn’t gather enough information to even begin to identify others. If you spot one you know from this collection, drop me a note so I can look it up.

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34 thoughts on “Mushroom Explosion

  1. Oh! Jean, I thought I was the only “crazy” mushroom hunter. I did not spend the time you did and I don’t have quite the wooded area in my backyard, but I found quite a few species myself. It will be fun to look at my pictures and compare them with yours and your drawings. They are so beautiful and ephemeral, especially when your husband mows them down!!

  2. Your illustrations are terrific – quite festive-looking!
    I cannot offer any expertise, but I share in your astonishment. This summer and last year, we’ve seen more fungus in upstate NY woods than ever before. Coral fungus that’s bigger than a basketball, instead of the usual fist-sized clumps, cauliflowers, brackets, etc. in reds, yellows, purples, etc.

  3. Whoa! Out of control! (you and the fungi!!)

    Tons and tons of ‘shrooms here as well (not surprising given the record rainfall), but they’ve usually been snacked on by the time I find them on my rambles! Gorgeous studies.

  4. As always, information, beauty, excitement. Mushrooms are one of the most fascinating life forms, I think, as they are neither plant nor animal. Inspiring art work.

  5. I absolutely love your mushrooms! Last year we had the same experience. This year… not so. We’re currently in a drought here in Northern Michigan.. I’m really enjoying your fungi pics. I paint and log them too. Yours have so much style. Keep em coming

    • We had a week of hot, humid weather and daily storms, which brought them out. So maybe you’ll see them at some later point if the weather changes. I’ve only lived here a year and I’m enjoying learning about the nature of my home.

    • Thanks Lisa- I am familiar with Beatrix Potter’s mushrooms (and other natural history paintings), though I hadn’t seen this website– the illustrations are exquisite! They really show her outstanding technique, control of edges and subtle shading. I found that mushrooms really lend themselves to very careful painting, and I had to pull back from that while painting these to keep them loose and get a lot done, rather than focusing intensely on one or two. Fascinating subjects!

  6. I’m with you Jean in love and fascination for fungi – I’m so impressed with the numbers you have found! They are such wonderful things to draw too … I read somewhere that fungi are closer to animals than plants, which makes them even more amazing!

  7. Oh, this made me smile, I totally get it. What is it with mushrooms and obsessions? I was obsessed when I was in my early 30’s, and I remember one weekend in Michigan when I found an incredible variety, and had so much fun photographing them and trying to ID them. The spore prints I only the patience for sometimes, but they are wonderful to do, too. Back then, you really needed at least 3 guides because none was sufficient by itself. As you’ve probably heard, the pacific northwest is a mushroom forager’s heaven, but I haven’t really gotten into that here, not yet. It’s very, very dry now, but I know the rains aren’t far away, and the mushrooms as well. I love how deeply you have delved into their features in your illustrations. Wonderful work, wow!

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