Last weekend I ventured for the first time into Ithaca’s Sapsucker Woods – a forested area adjacent to Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, which among many other projects, strongly influences ornithological citizen science far and wide. Sapsucker Woods, however, is not merely a place where birds nest and feed. It is a living, breathing organism – an ecosystem that is more than the sum of the parts of the intricate denizens, both biotic and abiotic, within it. The complexity of a forest is fractal – from the way sunlight is distributed to the canopy, to the well-known food chain, to the molecular structure of the enzymes saprophobic fungi use to break down the hydrocarbon bonds in the wood they devour. Through a magnifying glass, or a microscope, or out of an airplane’s window – a forest is beautiful.
For those interested, the mushrooms pictured in the slideshow are (in order of appearance): Stropharia rugosoannulata, or the King Stropharia; Hericium americanum, or Lion’s Mane; Grifola frondosa, or Maitake/Hen of the Woods.