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Eugene Weekly : It's About Time : 10.1.09




By David Wagner

Golden chanterelle (Cantharellus formosus)

According to some traditions, October is the month the gods take vacation, so it behooves us to see that sacred places are kept secure and tidy. As the gods have taken care of our surroundings, we must help take care of theirs.

There seemed to have been fewer flies than usual this past summer. Perhaps it was because the spiders were so plentiful? Are they not like arctic foxes and hares, whose populations cycle up and down in opposition?

A change of seasons is taking place. The rains blow down from the north, carried in on cold air. The cold air produces what fall color we enjoy, most of the reds coming from vine maple and poison oak. In good years the bigleaf maple turns a lovely yellow gold. As the maple leaves turn brown, notice little green islands sporting black spots on many leaves. This is the tar spot fungus, a living antibiotic hosted inside the maple leaves. It becomes visible only at the end of the season, when it borrows a small piece of the leaf's food factory to reproduce: The black dots are its spore bodies.

While the cold air is shutting down the deciduous trees and flowering herbs, the rain is stimulating the fungi under the forest canopy into action. This is the season of most prolific growth of mushrooms. The favorite of the region, the golden chanterelle, reaches its best in October. Remember the wonderful mushroom show at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum on the 25th.

 

David Wagner is a botanist who has worked in Eugene for more than 30 years. He teaches mosses and is president of the Eugene Natural History Society. He may be reached at fernzenmosses@me.com