Lend me your (wood) ears

My 15-year-old son Sam and I went mushrooming today for the first time since December. Neither of us were expecting much but we wanted to get a jump on the season, and some fresh air. We went to Aldeen Park, a city park in the center of Rockford. I followed Sam as he led me several yards off the trail.

“I think I see wood ear,” he said as he took off.

“Really?” I shouted after him. “Are you sure?!”

Sure enough, he had found several of the species. He’s found them before and brought them back to me, but this is the first time I have seen them on the tree. This little guy was “born” last fall, but is still very soft.

It’s really quite a joy to find these little guys. Their scientific name is Auricularia auricula and it’s just a joyful little fungus. Below is the same wood ear, turned inside out. It flips just as easily as a dog ear.

The instant Sam turned the specimen “inside out” the fungus stopped being a mushroom and “became” the ear of a mythical animal. It looked and felt like the inside of a mysterious ear and we both felt like we were invading its privacy. Sam closed it up and we kept hiking. It’s been several years since I felt this way but there are times when I am convinced the woods want to be alone.

We didn’t stay much longer but we did stop to check on our old pal the artist conk. We wanted to see if he grew from the last time we saw him in November. And he did! It’s pretty amazing how he just hides in plain sight getting bigger every day, kind of like someone else I know.

Hey, it’s another late night (and short) blog. Thanks for reading and remember to watch what you say in the woods. You never know who’s listening. -Connie

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