Highland Lake, NC Wildlife: Some Local Wild Mushrooms

Nature buffs who happen to passing through Flat Rock, NC or staying at our Highland Lake vacation rentals during the late summer and fall are in for a treat when it comes to wild mushrooms. The cove forest soil and regular autumn rainfall area make our area prime real estate for encouraging native funguses to fruit into a wide variety of fascinating mushrooms. Below are just a few of the fascinating mushrooms that I’ve found walking the trails of Flat Rock, North Carolina and Highland Lake, NC.

Jack-o-Lantern Mushroom – A Wild Mushroom that Grows in the Dark

If you happen to be staying at one of our Highland Lake rentals during mid-autumn, you might have the good fortune of being greeted by one of the huge outcroppings of Jack-o-Lantern mushrooms that spring up in our area that time of year. Jack-o-Lantern Mushrooms are named after the unearthly glow that they emit during the night, an effect which is caused by the same chemical process that lightning bugs use to flash their tails at night. You should be able to see their glow when they are in full bloom, but you might need to pick one and view it in a very dark space to get the full effect.

Sulphur Shelf – The Chicken of the Woods Mushroom

The chicken of the woods mushroom (Laetiporus sulphureus) is large, brightly colored polypore that grows on the sides of living oaks, as well as the logs of various fallen trees. It’s treasured as being one of the tastier edible mushrooms in our area thanks to its lemon chicken flavor, but please leave any specimens you happen to find in our area alone for others to enjoy. The fluorescent yellow underbelly of this polypore is to thank for its other common name, the sulphur shelf. Although I’ve only been lucky enough to run across this species a couple of times around Highland Lake, NC, the outcroppings I’ve run across on both of those of the occasions were absolutely amazing in size.

Dye Maker’s Polypore –  Mushroom of a Hundred Colors

One of the most interesting mushrooms that grow near our Highland Lake vacation rentals can be usually be found growing just outside Season’s Restaurant during the autumn months. Dye Maker’s Polypore (Phaeolus schweintzii) was once treasured by textile makers in our area who used this versatile mushroom to create numerous colors of dye. When the correct mordant is used in combination with this parasitic mushroom, a talented crafter can created dyes in various tones of orange, deep green, brilliant yellow and rust red.

Beefsteak Mushroom – It’s What’s for Dinner

Well, it’s what’s for dinner if you’re 100% sure that you know what you’re looking at, that is. Never attempt to eat a wild mushroom unless there is not a doubt in your mind that you have identified it properly. The beefsteak mushroom, or Fistulina hepatica, is an unusual looking mushroom that has the distinction of resembling a piece of raw meat growing out of the side of a tree. When cooked properly, it has a taste and texture very similar to a rather tough piece of marbled beefsteak.


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