Monday, September 21, 2009

Toadstool Heaven

IT was hard to believe that Georgia has been in an official drought for much of the last ten years, given the monumental flooding that occured here last week. Though many farms in the state have suffered catastrophic damage, there is one crop that has flourished in the wet ground. 'Shrooms!

Hearing about a particularly fungus-filled area, we went to check it out. And really - wow! There were red ones, yellow ones, brown ones and white, smooth and speckled, 'mushroom'-shaped and the flat kind growing out of trees, tiny little bobbles and huge great fungi. I had warned Emma that I wanted to photograph fungi, but they didn't hold her interest quite as long as mine, and she soon sighed: "Mama, you don't have to take a picture of every one."

So what exactly is a toadstool and what is a mushroom? Both terms have been used for centuries and never clearly defined. Now, 'toadstool' usually refers to an inedible or poisonous cap-and-gill-shaped fungus, and mushroom an edible one - though this is by no means official. The word 'toadstool' may be connected to some kinds of poisonous toad, (one school holds that toads made mushrooms poisonous by sitting on them. Now that's something you don't see very often.) It has also been suggested that the word derives phonetically from the German word 'Todesstuhl' (literally 'death chair'). Either way, we were just there to look at them - we weren't planning on testing any poison theories.

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