Fungi Seen on Wisconsin Hikes: The Common and the Weird

One mushroom on a trail in the woods in Wisconsin.
Image by author, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2022.

We hiked a segment of the Timm’s Hill Trail yesterday. It was mid-day, and still very comfortable out. Donning jeans and t-shirts with an adequate dose of bug spray, on our hats and clothes, we set off just after 2 pm. Our yellow lab, Molly, was with us too. She loves the trail for her walk and is anxious to go on it every day (we usually don’t do this daily, although she gets plenty of other walks).

After going into the woods, not too far, I saw a strange orange-colored object on the ground before us. At first, I thought it was a piece of plastic. But, on closer inspection, I noted that it was actually some kind of fungus. There was no stalk or gills, which are present in a lot of fungi you encounter in the woods. Of course, I stopped to take a photo. This act, the one of photographing, and being able to visually recall the object in question helps me to learn the names of fungi, flora, or fauna encountered in our Wisconsin woods. As I’m more accustomed to prairie biomes, I find myself with a lot of new species to learn. This makes me happy, as I love to learn new things about our natural world. 

This is some kind of fungus, I believe, but exactly what, I don’t have a clue! © Carol Labuzzetta, 2022.

We trekked onward and soon there were other fungi to photograph. There was another orange “blob” and then some more traditional mushrooms with stems and gills. One was smack in the middle of the trail but we didn’t see it until we had turned around to head back. My husband spied that one.

We hiked 1.5 miles on the trail, all of it through conifers and hardwoods with a number of ferns, sedges, needles, and cones littering the forest floor. Parts of the trail were muddy but not excessively so, especially considering the amount of rain we had over the past weekend (3.5 inches). 

Four different types of fungi were gathered together on the side of the trail, all small specimens and easily missed for the most average of hikers. I was on the lookout for more fungi after the orange blob and I think that’s why I saw them.

mushrooms growing near the edge of a trail in Wisconsin on the green forest floor.
Four Fungi. © Carol Labuzzetta, (author), 2022

There were oyster fungi lining the side of a tree. And, a few more on the trail that animals had bitten off a chunk of. As we headed back, I wondered if the Indian Pipe (Ghost Pipe) had sprouted on our property. A friend noted these 2–3 years ago and I’ve looked for them ever since. But they are not fungi. Instead, they are plants that lack chlorophyll. They are eerily white with a touch of brown or pink, and a drooping head when they first emerge from the ground. 

Ghost Pipe on the forest floor in Wisconsin.
Indian Pipe. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2022.

Sure enough, when we got back to our cabin (a 3.15-mile hike), I checked for the Ghost Pipe. They were just starting to sprout above the ground! Now, I’ll have to check them every few days to see how many pop up! 

I also checked the Hemlock or Varnished Reshi Mushrooms I saw last month on a tree near our shoreline. They looked about the same as they did when I first found them. 

Large conifer near the edge of a small lake in Wisconsin with Varnished Reshi Fungi attached to the tree.
Varnished Reshi Fungi attached to a large conifer near a small lake in Wisconsin. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2022.

At least I learned to positively identify both the Ghost Pipe and the Varnished Reshi Fungi. I am still looking for guidance on the orange blob. My Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America (2021) gave me some clues. Since it is gill-less and stalk-less, I think it might be a Cinnabar Polypore, according to the field guide. This identification is closest to the fungi I observed and the photos in the field guide. If anyone knows for sure, please leave a note in the comments.

How good are you at identifying fungi? Me? I’m not very good but I’m learning!

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