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Walk in the Woods

A Fun(gi) Walk Table Rock State Park

with Livability Educator Jaclin DuRant

People seem to think that winter isn’t a good time to go on a nature walk. Sure, many of the creatures of the forest are cuddled up in their burrows hibernating and most of the hardwoods have lost their leaves, but that just makes it possible to see farther and discover things that you may not notice during the growing season.

photo of Jaclin DuRant at the Table Rock Trail Head

At the trail head at Table Rock State Park

Table Rock State Park, less than an hour away from downtown Greenville, has something to offer everyone no matter what the season. The parking lot was crowded for a dreary morning in January, but once I got onto the trail the hustle and bustle of daily life seemed to fade away and was replaced by the splashing of water through the stream and the calls of birds as they flew from branch to branch.

photo of dried seed heads of a native hydrangea

Dried seed heads of a native hydrangea

It was a great day for finding cool fungi! I saw a lot of mushrooms and shelf fungi. Fungi come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors; and are an essential part of any ecosystem. Many fungi act as decomposers, breaking down organic matter, including lignin, one of the major components of wood.

photo of dead log, home to a diverse community of fungi, lichens, and mosses

This dead log was home to a diverse community of fungi, lichens, and mosses

In addition to lots of fungi, I observed quite a few lichens. Lichens are so interesting partly because they are a partnership between two organisms, a fungus and either algae or cyanobacteria. The fungus provides the body structure for the lichen while the algal partner makes food. Lichens can grow in many environments and microhabitats that are unsuitable for other organisms, including bare rock. Some lichens are sensitive to pollutants in the air and are used by scientists to monitor air pollution.

photo of algae growing over the fungus

Beautiful colors on this fungus, most likely caused by algae growing over the fungus

My walk took me through a variety of habitats; through stands of conifers, rhododendron and hemlock cove forest, and into oak hickory dominated hillsides. It is so exciting to watch the plant community change as you walk through the forest. State Parks are amazing resources that provide space for habitat conservation, the protection of natural resources, and recreation side by side. I can’t wait for my next chance to take a walk at Table Rock State Park.

photo of 'shelf' fungi

Looking down on this fungus makes it obvious why one of the common names for these organisms is "Shelf" fungi

For more information about all of the exciting things that you can do at Table Rock, check out the Table Rock State Park website.

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