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Toadstools or Mushrooms
About North Georgia

by Mary Coeli Meyer, Ph.D.
exclusively for About North Georgia

Other pages on About North Georgia by Dr. Meyer:
Spring on Kennesaw Mountain
Toadstools or Mushrooms
Precursors of Springtime
Spring Has Sprung

Dr. Meyer has a CD available for those who want more information:
Wildflowers of North Georgia

William Wordsworth may have wandered "lonely as a cloud" and discovered a "host of golden daffodils" but Robert Frost and I take the "path less traveled". I found a host of glorious chanterelles glimmering through the darkened woods. For that matter I know where the Smurf's live and why they are such a happy society of blue people.

Throughout the seasons there are thousands of different varieties of fungi to amuse the seeker. Admittedly they are most bountiful during the spring and fall but there is really never a moment without them. They are even known to grow during the winter months but I've never seen anything other than dry rot during the colder months. Chanterelle, from the north Georgia forests

Mushrooms come in every color of the rainbow. Indigo blue, red, orange, yellow, green, brown, bronze, white. There is no limit to the color variations available to satisfy the eye. They come in a vast array of shapes as well. This cottony Old Man of the Woods is such an example of color and shape. In addition there is the typical hat on stalk varieties - some with gills some with spongy material; there are club shapes, antlers, balls, beards, tear drops, there are even a few that remind me of the "Blob". There are tall ones, short ones, stalkless ones, round ones, flat ones... There are even some fungi that glow in the dark! So why are the Smurf's so happy? How can you not be happy when you are surrounded by a world of colors and shapes that are always changing and always there to amuse?! Old Man of the Woods, from the north Georgia forests

Spotting a mushroom isn't all that difficult. The fruiting bodies can be found hiding under the leaves, hanging off trees, pushing up like giant golf balls in the front lawn, growing on caterpillars or making circles in grass. I say "fruiting bodies" because the mushroom plant is more like an apple tree. In this instance, the tree/mycelium is under the ground and the apple/mushroom pops up above the ground and is called a fruiting body.

One weekend I was walking through the woods and saw an orangey glow. A Caesar Amanita had caught my attention. It had a little bite out of it, reminding me of that old-wives tale "if an animal eats it, it must be safe" NOT! Animals can eat a lot of things we can't eat. Neither does the "silver spoon story" work with mushrooms. Even if the spoon doesn't tarnish when you put it in a pot of mushrooms, they still could be very poisonous. There is a saying that "there are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters but no old-bold mushroom hunters". Such good advice. The chances of being poisoned are quite good, particularly in the Georgia area where there are numerous varieties of the deadly Amanita's. In truth, there is no quick-and-dirty piece of advise for recognizing the edible mushroom from the non-edible. Knowing what you are looking at is an educational process. It takes time and it takes study. Caeser Aminita, from the north Georgia forests

So now we come to the final question - Is it a toadstool or a mushroom? It appears that the term toadstool is something unique to the English language. In no other language is there a distinction between a mushroom and a toadstool. A mushroom is a mushroom is a mushroom. Be that as it may, the term toadstool often means a poisonous mushroom while at other times it simply means a mushroom. As for the term "mushroom", it seems to come from the French word, moisseron which is in turn derived from mousse, "moss". Sure enough, those lovely little beauties do love to grow in the moss but that isn't the only place we find them. Now that it is fall, you can look for abundance with each rainfall. Chanterelle, from the north Georgia forests

The Hen of the Woods and the cauliflower mushroom grow at the base of trees while the Chanterelles dot the leaf litter on the floor of the woods. The very illusive Goats Beard hangs off of trees in the middle of the woods while all the multi-colored Lactaria's (those that give off milk when nicked) pop up virtually everywhere. Amanita's - the really poisonous mushrooms - almost always have "cookie crumbs" on top of their hats, embellishing the inner woodland clearings. And there you have it, a brief meander through the mushroom woods. A place where the leprechauns play and the Smurf's make little villages for each of us to enjoy in the leisure of our mind. Have fun!

Wildflower CDEditor's note: Author and photographer Mary Coeli Meyer's first CD will help anyone and everyone interested in the wildflowers of North Georgia. They are arranged by color to make it easy to find the particular flower you have discovered (Ordering information)
Other pages on About North Georgia by Dr. Meyer:Spring on Kennesaw Mountain
Toadstools or Mushrooms
Precursors of Springtime
Spring Has Sprung

North Georgia Naturally
North Georgia -- it's a natural! From outdoor adventure to our natural history, About North Georgia covers the area with in-depth articles, photos, and insights into those great, little-known "secrets" of the area.

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Precursors of Springtime
Spring Has Sprung
Spring on Kennesaw Mountain
Toadstools or Mushrooms

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