Lets Go Hug a Tree!

Today’s post will be fairly short and sweet! I felt it was important to at least touch on the subject of trees and identification, because throughout your foraging seasons, it can always come in handy, AND can even keep you safe! Most mushrooms and some plants tend to favor one or two trees over others, so it’s best to be able to indentify them so you’re not wasting your time looking in all the wrong places! Take Morels for example, I have found in this area they tend to favor Ash trees and Apple trees. That’s not to say you may not find them under or around something else, but most likely, these trees are your best bet! Other mushrooms (for example, the Hen of the Woods) favor very old oak trees. Learning every single tree isn’t really necessary, but knowing the basics can definitely help! Not only can it help you locate edibles, but it can keep you safe. For instance, Chicken of the Woods mushrooms grow on trees instead of around them. When a plant or mushroom grows on another tree, it will absorb the nutrients AND the poisons in that tree. Hemlock, for example is extremely poisonous, and anything growing on Hemlock should not be eaten. Ingesting Hemlock can cause liver and kidney failure within days. 

When in doubt, The Arbor Day Foundation has a great guide that can walk you step by step through identification. A lot of things can be used to tell which tree is which like bark, leaves, stems, and seeds! Below are just a couple of examples of some tree types found in this area.

I cannot stress enough how much you must stay away from ingesting Hemlock. One fairly new telltale sign of Hemlock is something called Woolly Adelgid. This is an aphid-like parasite that has infected almost every Hemlock in the Appalachian Mountains. It was brought here in the 1950s from Japan, and slowly drains the sap out of the trees, killing them as quickly as 5 years. In 1992, the Japanese Ladybug was brought in to help try and eradicate them. This is why in the summer and fall you may notice a LOT more ladybugs than what used to be around. Below is an example of a tree infected with this parasite. It’s a dead give-away for Hemlock. 

If you are really interested in learning more about trees, THIS is an excellent reference. You can also find a lot of field guides in your local bookstore, and I’m sure there “is an app for that” too!  So until next time…Happy Hunting!!