Sunday, August 09, 2015


Weather: Fine grained rain Friday night and Saturday. This morning a great wall of mist was rising from the river higher than the badlands. It looked flat, gray, and solid the entire length of the river and the full extent of the arroyo. Los Alamos, up on the mesas was reporting fair weather at the time.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid tea roses, bird of paradise, buddleia, silver lace vine, trumpet creeper, rose of Sharon, hollyhock, datura, sweet pea, alfalfa, Russian sage, annual four o’clock, bouncing Bess, purple garden phlox, red amaranth, cultivated sunflowers, coreopsis, blanket flower, yellow yarrow, zinnias, brome grass.

Beyond the walls and fences: Trees of heaven, buffalo gourd, yellow mullein, goat’s head, white sweet clover, bindweed, green-leaf five-eyes, white prairie and yellow evening primroses, Queen Anne’s lace, Hopi tea, plains paper flower, horseweed, wild lettuce, flea bane, gumweed, goldenrod, áñil del muerto, Tahoka daisy, golden hairy and purple asters, ring muhly grass; green amaranth coming up.

In my yard: Rugosa roses, yellow potentilla, fernbush, Saint John’s wort, California poppy, lady bells, calamintha, blue flax, larkspur, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, nasturtium, Mexican hat, black-eyed Susan, chocolate flower, bachelor button, white yarrow, purple coneflower, Mönch aster, reseeded Sensation and yellow cosmos.

Bedding plants: Sweet alyssum, snapdragon, moss roses, marigold, gazania.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds, geckos, ants.

Weekly update: Mushrooms have three habits. When I was a child they had beige stems rising from cupcake collars that sported peaked caps. They were spongy to touch, but if you looked underneath you saw radiating partitions under the caps that held the spores that functioned as seeds.

I don’t remember ever pulling one out to look at the roots, perhaps because they don’t have roots. Instead, thin threads anchor them to the ground.

When I was in graduate school in the late 1960s, I remember hearing those threads in fact were vast underground networks of "white mycelia combined with black shoelace-like rhizomorphs" that expanded and connected. Sporadically a mushroom was pushed above, but all the mushrooms in the area were clones of one another.

Catherine Parks said, "if you could take away the soil and look at it, it's just one big heap of fungus with all of these filaments that go out under the surface."

Foresters discovered an Armillaria ostoyae in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon that covered 2,200 acres of land. Another in the Strawberry Mountains of southwest Washington undergird 1,500 acres. Near Crystal Falls in Michigan, a 37 acre Armillaria gallica was discovered in 1992.

Based on its extent, mycologists estimated the Oregon fungus was at least 2,400 years old. The one in Michigan could be more than 1,500 years old.

Mushrooms aren’t actually plants, but a kingdom apart from both plants and animals. They don’t produce their own food through photosynthesis but draw their nutrients from organic material in the soil.

The Armillarias are more parasitic than most mushrooms. Foresters believe they are the source of diseases that kill firs and Douglas spruces. For ecologists, they are a tool used by nature to create and maintain a particular type of landscape. They don’t injure western larches and ponderosa pines. They bring order into an environments that otherwise might descend into chaotic arenas of Spencerian competition.

Down here in the valley, mushrooms are rare specimens that emerge from spores dropped from the Jémez. They tend to appear in the shade in rainy periods, but rarely in the same place. The most common one a few years ago was a grey sphere that eventually split open to reveal a rust brown interior.

Often you don’t see mushrooms here until they’ve died.

I saw one this year that looked like a piece of old hose sticking out of the ground.

A few weeks later another emerged as a tall, fat, grooved stem with a clinging honeycombed cap of black.

This mushroom, in fact, may not be from the Jémez. It’s emerged near an apricot that was planted in 2013. It could be a spore it picked up when it was growing in Oklahoma. A few years before that, someone was working in the area with a backhoe that had been in the Tusas mountains. The one that looks like a muffin could also have been released by that operator.

Since I was a child I developed an allergy to penicillin and an absolute aversion to fungus of any type. I won’t touch mushrooms now. That makes it a bit difficult to identify them, but there is a good website, Mushroom Observer. You just need to enter "Jemez" and "Species Lists" in the search criteria to see photographs of New Mexico mushrooms contributed by amateur naturalists.

Parks, Catherine. Quoted in Sherri Richardson Dodge, "An Even More Humongous Fungus," 24 July 2000 press release from the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. She’s also the source for other quotes.

Rensberger, Boyce. "Underground Goliath; Michigan Mushroom Over 1,500 Years Old," The Washington Post, 2 April 1992.

Spencer, Herbert. Converted Darwin’s natural selection into "survival of the fittest" in Principles of Biology of 1864. He later expanded it into a dystopian description of human social behavior described as social Darwinism.

1. Mushrooms under an apricot, 25 July 2015.

2. Mushroom growing in the flood plain of the arroyo, 21 September 2013.

3. Mushroom that appeared in my newly graveled driveway 15 May 2013. The gravel came from Velarde and a quarry northwest of town; the backhoe that spread it had been in the northern part of the state the week before.

4. The gray puffin headed mushroom that appeared everywhere in 2010 and 2011. This one was in the prairie on 8 November 2011.

5. The same type mushroom growing on the prairie, 1 August 2010.

6. Mushroom seen on the prairie, 28 June 2009.

7. A earlier specimen of the mushroom seen in #1; this one was found 16 June 2015.

8. Mushroom pushing up between tiles around the house on 6 August 2008. It never fully emerged.

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