September gave us much to see in the world of nature. We had plenty of arboreal color; reds came out bright, but eventually gave way to yellows. This color dominates the scene in early October.

Besides looking at leaves of woodland forests, we could also note the colors of roadside wildflowers. Goldenrods, asters and sunflowers all contributed plenty of glow before succumbing to the cooling and shorter days, after the autumnal equinox. Morning walks early in the month dripped with dew and a plethora of spiderwebs showed up at dawn, giving great photo ops. As the dew became frost, some of these webs held sparkling crystals.

Bird migration of many kinds headed south. Whether it was geese and ducks in the wetlands, raptors over Hawk Ridge or the roadside gatherings of warblers and sparrows, we never stopped seeing this avian movement. But September was also very dry.

With everything that this month was able to give us, it gave us very little moisture. Less than 1 inch of rain was recorded for the whole 30 days — one of the driest Septembers. Responding to arid conditions, the woods that showed much color had very little to see with mushrooms.

Our time of abundance of these fungal growths is late summer and thanks to rains of August, my woods walks were full of pauses to take a closer look at the various mushrooms. They ranged in sizes from those barely above the ground to nearly a foot tall, and diverse colors, with nearly all the spectrum shades appearing here. This rainy time was followed by a return to dry days.

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During much of September, forest fungal finds were limited. Though I found marasmius, amanita and agaricus in lawns, the only ones that I could discover as I continued to wander were a couple that grew at the bases of trees. Scaly-cap pholiota formed attractive clusters on stumps along with new growths of puffballs.

I found almost no other mushrooms. But, the month exited with some days of scattered showers — not a lot — and the nearby woods responded to an inch of rain.

October is not too late for forest mushrooms. They may be hidden by fallen leaves, but they are present. Such was what I discovered during an early October woods walk. The rains brought them out and at the base of several trees, I found clusters of the autumn mushrooms that I was searching for: honey mushrooms.

A cluster of honey mushrooms as seen in the October woods. (Photo by Larry Weber)
A cluster of honey mushrooms as seen in the October woods. (Photo by Larry Weber)

Honey mushrooms (armillaria) are a diverse group and may be seen as several different species, but what I located here were the “typical” ones. The group was composed of several growths, mostly about 4 inches tall with brown stems and caps. The caps were darker in the center, lighter around the edge and scattered with scaly growths. (It is the color of the caps that gives the name of “honey” to these mushrooms.)

The stems have an obvious ring around them near the cap. Under the caps are gills where the reproductive spores are formed. Seeing the dropped spores, especially the color, can help identify a mushroom. Due to the tight growing clusters, the light-colored spores from some fall on the caps of lower ones.

Honey mushrooms are a regular in the autumn woods, often in October. Some years, they are abundant with clusters in the dozens, other years they are sparse, but they are here every fall.

I’m thankful for the light rains of late September that allowed this October mushroom to show up in the woods, adding more to autumn walks.

Larry Weber
Larry Weber