Today I saw the most astonishing thing I’ve seen in some time: a vast bracket fungus, probably climacodon septentrionalis, on a hardwood bordering Salem Cemetery in Hamlin, Pennsylvania (figure 1).
It’s not like I’ve never seen brackets before: I’ve photographed some handsome bracket fungi in St. Mary’s City, Maryland (figure 2)
and some handsome turkey tails in Dunmore, Pennsylvania (figure 3);
I think I’ve even seen some laetipori sulphurei in the scar caused by a long-lopped off limb of my favorite beech tree, in Dunmore (figure 4).
But the rare, beautiful symmetry and size of the noble climacodon septentrionalis I saw today made it a thrilling accidental discovery. I estimate the size as twice that of an American football.
Had you seen it, you might reasonably have said, “why, it looks like a fingerprint,” or, “watch out for that beehive!” In my case, you can deduce my misspent youth amongst Greco-Roman antiquities from my inner monologue, “what on earth is that thing that looks like a uterus votive!” (Figure 5)
When ancient people appealed to the gods for help in some area of the body they sometimes offered a representation of the body part (an ‘anatomical votive‘) either as a sort of promissory note for an anticipated cure or to give thanks for a cure thought to have been effected. One still sees this in (for example) Italy and elsewhere in Roman Catholic contexts today.