Even on a dreary January day, there are new things to see in our woods. Here are some white mushrooms growing in ranks on a dead tree trunk,.
Apparently it is not too early in the year for romance, either. In the fold of one of the mushrooms, a pair of crane flies are mating (left). I removed one of the mushrooms so I could photograph the gills on the underside (right).
One of the characters used to identify mushrooms is the color of the spores. To determine this, one usually makes a spore print. The left-hand photograph shows the mushroom pictured above placed on a piece of paper and covered with a water glass. After several hours, during which time spores will have fallen from the surface of the gills onto the paper, the glass and the mushroom are carefully removed to reveal a spore print.
The combination of spore color and general appearance of the mushrooms indicate that these are Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotis ostreatus). This species is very common, and is quite good to eat. It is also widely cultured on dead logs and other sorts of substrates containing cellulose.
Standard warning: Never eat any wild mushroom without positive identification. There are several species in our woods that can make you very sick or very dead!