Site J: Recycling in the Forest

In the woods, God recycles everything - the leaves, the wood, dead animals – everything (an example for us to follow!). Before you lies an example of the most important primary recycler - fungi. On the branch below the post notice the fruiting structures of the common bird’s nest fungus. It helps break down the wood of fallen branches. The "eggs" that may be in the "nest" are actually reproductive spores, which are splashed out by the rain. Another wood recycler may be found behind you - a black, branching fungus growing out fallen logs and sticks. These are called carbon antlers, and it may have whitish tips because of the microscopic white spores produced there. Look around for mushrooms, a more common type of fungus, such as the yellow sulfur tuft, which often grows in clusters on stumps and fallen wood, and the white-to-tan oyster mushroom that grows out of standing trees or fallen logs. The main mushroom season is fall, although many species fruit (make mushrooms) in the spring and summer too. Remember that the main part of the fungus is in the soil or wood it’s decomposing – what you see is only a small (but important) part!

A ways farther up the trail and to your right you will notice another wood-decomposing fungus, this one specializing on trees that are still standing. The many blackish bracket-like fungi with the white edges on the dead bigleaf maple are conifer-base polypores. To the left side of the path here is another interesting example of recycling. You will notice a large stump with a couple of smaller trees growing out of the top of it. The trees are western hemlocks and they are growing out of a western redcedar stump. The dead wood is called a nurse log because it provides nutrients for the growing tree as a mother nurses her child. As the nurse log rots away, it leaves the other tree seemingly standing in mid-air, supported only by its vertical roots. Watch for other trees in the forest where this has happened.