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Fall purple fungus

Ranger Steve

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

A memorable experience with 4th graders during a fall was discovering a purple coral fungus at the Howard Christensen Nature Center. It lingers in my mind to be shared again. I have wonderful memories of leading students on the 7 miles of trails through a great variety of habitats. Our interpretive teachers found work at HCNC among the most enjoyable they experienced. I hope the 15-18000 students that annually explored with school groups share similar memories with their families now they are grown. Hopefully they have family outings on the trails.

Priscilla Johnson, an interpretive teacher naturalist at HCNC, recently died at age 96. She requested memorial donations be given to HCNC. HCNC continues to offer both school and family events. They have a rent a retreat center. Please consider sending a memorial donation to HCNC, PO Box 42, Kent City, MI 49330. I encourage membership for added benefits. HCNC’s web site – www.howardchristensen.org

A boy named Lester found a purple coral fungus and wanted to know its name. I told him that I did not know that particular coral fungus species and perhaps it could be a new species to science for all I know. We explored several coral fungi that day as well as a great variety of other fungi. The fall had been wet and warm. It was perhaps the best fungi October I had experienced and I greatly enjoyed discoveries with fieldtrip participants. 

Our group decided to name Lester’s purple fungus, Fungi lesteri, in his honor. One year later, the students returned as 5th graders to HCNC. As they approached where I greeted students at the entrance to the Red Pine Interpretive Building, the students started yelling, “Remember him. This is Lester.” Fortunately his relatively uncommon name triggered my memory and I immediately said “Yes, Fungi lesteri.” There was great thrill in reliving our experience with that pretty fungi and those students hoped they would again be in my group on this visit. One significant event can be life changing. 

Getting to know and name this wonderful purple fungus built a comradeship among the group but also with this wonderful creature in whose home we were guests. The name is only special to our group. Scientists know it by a different name but that does not matter. To those of us exploring that day, the fungus is special. Create special memorable discoveries with your family and friends at HCNC. 

Now decades later, I expect those students remember Fungi lesteri and their outdoor experience. I hope they spend time observing fellow nature niche creatures that share habitats with us. The name is not what will be found in books or scientific literature but having our own “local name” is special and important to us. Build your own relationship with something you discover and share with others. It is always fun to reminisce at holiday gatherings. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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