Monday, September 5, 2011

High Rock Mycorrhizal

I had only been to Staten Island's Greenbelt twice. Once, a several years ago and then again this past spring for a late winter workshop on trail maintenance. Neither visit was comprehensive, leaving the vast majority of the trails unexplored. This time, I was going because I thought that woods of High Rock would be a good location to find edible mushrooms. And because it was mushrooms, I asked Marie and Vince to come along. 

High Rock Park is a hill landscape, only 90 acres, with a mature canopy of mixed red maple-sweetgum, oak-beech, and oak-tulip communities. The trees, the minimal understory, and abundance of leaf litter that I saw last March suggested to me that this would be a great place to find mushrooms. And, it was. Not steps from the parking lot, not steps from the entry road, there were mushrooms exploding through the leaf litter. 

The mosquitoes were more noticeable than usual, and that mixed with increasing humidity created the muggy, itchy feeling no one enjoys. After dousing ourselves in a deetless repellent that choked with the scent of hair spray, we were on our way. The red in white trail, the yellow trail, and then the green -all are good. The woods beautiful, the trails wide. Because of the hurricane, downslope trails were blocked by fallen trees, but generally easy to maneuver (I believe I belly rolled over one trunk).




The large vernal pool (year round pond?).





For lunch, we drove to the greenbelt nature center. Afterward, we went off on the trail behind the center. There was little in the way of mushrooms in those woods until the forest changed to upland dry oak with an ericaceous understory (huckleberry?), not unlike those near the edges of the Long Island pine barrens. Here, we also found mushrooms, although with less frequency and variation than at High Rock.

Now that I've traveled more of the trails at the Greenbelt, I think I have learned to avoid the lowland woods if I wish to stay out of the bramble and briars, which are less interesting, and remind me too much of the suburban, disturbed nature in which the better woods are embedded. They also harbor more poison ivy, and with all the trees down, we had to limbo the vine more than once.  Moses Mountain, a unique or strange, small yet steep-sided hill feels like a vegetation-covered monument to construction debris (turns out, it is just that -thanks Robert Moses). At road crossings, garbage abounds, speaking more of a teenage hangout and trash thrown from cars than of a fine woodland park. And if it's mushrooms you are seeking, the lowlands also appear less fruitful. 

We decided that High Rock demands another trip, in autumn, but, I think, I can let the rest go. My mind has already started drifting towards another borough, another park: Van Cortlandt, where I am slated to pick up the trail work again this fall.


  1. I didn't notice the belly-roll-over-the-trunk maneuver but I think that might have worked better than my scramble-underneath-the-trunk-and-get-the-tripod-hopelessly-tangled move...

  2. Yah, I think Marie blocked your view! Of course, I missed your stunt too ;)

    PS I linked to you, late.

  3. That's awesome. I wish I knew more about mushrooms, as they are so interesting. I would love to be able to find edible mushrooms but am so scared that I would mistakenly eat a poisonous one!

  4. Thanks for taking us, Frank. Very late with my post!

  5. Those are gorgeous specimens! Wow!


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