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The Turkey’s Tail

The naked winter forest in North America provides an opportunity to find cocoons of overwintering moth larvae, dried wasp galls and fungi that are often overlooked by the average hiker. I love spending the winter in the woodlands to find these organisms.

During a recent walk in the Maryland woods, I came across a fungus growing from a decayed hardwood stump. Nearby the same fungus grew out the side of a dead oak tree. Though it was a dull gray color, closer examination exposed its intricate beauty. It was the turkey tail mushroom, one of the most common fungus in North America.

Although it is not poisonous, it is woody and unpalatable. Dried and pulverized, it has been brewed for medicinal teas to boost the immune system in ancient China. It is still used today to treat the common cold, cancer and aids in digestion.

Walk in any winter forest in North America and you are bound to see this fungus and yes, it resembles a turkey’s tail.

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