Figure 1. Bracket fungus. Hamlin, PA. Photo: author.

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)

Figure 2. Bracket fungi, St. Mary’s City, MD. Photo: author.

and some handsome turkey tails in Dunmore, Pennsylvania (figure 3);

Figure 3. Turkey tail mushrooms, Dunmore, PA. Photo: author.

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).

Figure 4. Laetiporus sulphureus in beech tree hollow. Dunmore, PA. Photo: author.

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.

Figure 5. Uterus votive. This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. CC-BY-4.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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1 Comment

  1. “[L. sulphureus] is edible when young, although adverse reactions have been reported” We have chicken-of-the-woods in a stump in our backyard. It blooms about every other year and it’s delicious! Ours is a lot more orange-colored than this one, and not symmetrical but I agree it looks like a Laetiporus.

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