July 17, 2022
Mushrooms for the Soul by Catherine Goulden
My fascination with fungi first began at the very beginning of 2020. I was having the first walk of the year in Ambleside on New Year’s day. There I noticed rubbery protrusions, resembling human ears, clinging to the remnants of a decaying Elder tree. I took a snap and later, consulted online, what it was that I had been drawn to. Auricularia auricula-judae, jelly ear mushroom. I’m very much a city dweller, and had not had the opportunity, nor the inclination, to discover the mysteries and ethereal beauty of the fungi world.
Three months into 2020, the walks became a crucial ritual and the hunt for mushrooms, to photograph them and identify the varieties I came across, became my avocation. I didn’t need to leave the concrete streets of Liverpool to explore this new passion. Anywhere there are trees, and earth, and decaying wood, there is the possibility of coming across a profusion of discoverable fungi and learning of their individuality and unique qualities.
I am not interested in foraging, nor consuming the fruits of immense Mycorrhizal networks, with their diverse habitats and ability to communicate. My enchantment lies with the aesthetic of these forms and the desire to identify them by name.
After two years of searching, I have a wealth of new knowledge and masses of photographs. It appeals to me, to play detective, in order to narrow down which fungi I have come across. There are groups and forums that I have joined, with an army of mycology aficionados. Some of whom, take identification to the highest, scientific level. When stumped, I can ask for clarification and we each delight in the the luck of one another’s encounters with certain varieties of fungi. I have favourite, local spots to view fungi and even hope for rain, so that conditions might favour eruptions of these symbiotic microorganisms, which play such a beneficial role in our environment and are vital to our ecology. Mushrooms for me, bring such joy and they behold great, great beauty.
by Catherine Goulden