Fungus Among Us

by Kenneth Brooks, Volunteer Nature Preserve Monitor at The Nature Conservancy’s Kentucky Chapter

Anyone familiar with the Brown/Crutcher/Wallace Nature Preserve already knows that the spring wildflower season is spectacular. It is not unusual when hiking either of the two well-marked and maintained trails during spring to see as many as 40 different Kentucky native wildflowers – some common; others very unique and unusual.

Of course, there are wildflowers that show their colors deep into the summer – iron weed, rag weed, wing stem, daisies, tall flocks, butterfly weed, touch-me-nots, Queen Anne’s lace and on and on. There are also some very interesting Kentucky orchids hiding along the trails this time of year.

Kentucky Palisades Fungi
Kentucky Palisades Fungi

But the Palisades reveal other subtle and lesser known treats during the dog days of summer. Specifically, from July and through September – if temperatures stay hot and humid – you will likely come across a diverse array of fungi. Some are the size of dinner plates while others are more like dimes. They are unique, colorful, interesting and easily seen from the path.

Kentucky Palisades Fungi
Kentucky Palisades Fungi

The fungi found at the Brown/Crutcher/Wallace Nature Preserve come and go with the weather.  When it is hot, muggy and rainy, they are very visible. They tend to go into hiding when it is very dry and hot.

I wish I could say I knew these living organisms better. That might be true for the trees, wildflowers and critters you witness at the Brown/Crutcher/Wallace Nature Preserve. However in the case of fungi, I can only boast appreciation, not knowledge.

Kentucky Palisades Fungi
Kentucky Palisades Fungi

Maybe one of our readers can help me out with this. If you know the name of any of the fungi pictured here, drop us a line. Regardless of whether you can identify them, I hope you will grab your bug spray and check out the fungi at the Brown/Crutcher/Wallace Nature Preserve sometime soon!