While looking for spring wildflowers the other day (none to be found) I was instead drawn to one of the most common sights in the hardwood forest — the brightly striped disks of color on rotting logs and stumps produced by the turkeytail fungus. Both the common and scientific names of this mushroom suit it well: the color pattern does kind of resemble the striations of a turkey’s tail, and the species name, Trametes versicolor, (thin body with variable coloration) describes its physical appearance.
Turkeytail is a common bracket (shelf-forming) fungus found through the world, but differs from other bracket fungi by having a smooth underside dotted with pores, through which the spores are broadcast. Like other fungi, it is a primary decomposer of wood, especially the lignin fibers that give wood its rigidity and strength.
The bands also alternate in rough vs smooth texture, with the rough areas coated with fringes that stick up vertically from the surface of the fruiting body. What purpose could this serve, I wonder? Are the fringes for capturing moisture?
There could be a mutual benefit to the co-existence of algae and fungi here, like their symbiosis in lichen, where the fungus benefits from the sugars manufactured by algal photosynthesis, and the algae benefit from the moisture and minerals harvested by the fungus.
It almost looks like a forest flower — well, it will have to do as a stand-in for spring wildflowers until the weather warms up here.