As we raked, I discovered a very pretty patch of bracket fungi....
The bracket fungi are also called shelf fungi. They belong to the phylum Basidiomycetes, along with the mushrooms, puffballs, stinkhorns, jelly fungi, smuts and rusts. Shown in the photos are the fruiting bodies. They are generally tough and sturdy and produce their spores within pores of the fruiting body. Most shelf fungi, like many of the fungi, are decomposers, and can easily be found growing on dead trees and other dead plant matter. Other shelf fungi are parasitic, and grow along the sides of living trees.
Also spotted were some lovely lichens growing on the sides of some very old trees. Lichens are composite organisms. Two species live together in a lichen in mutualistic harmony. One of the organisms is a photosynthetic alga, and the other is a species of fungus. The alga carries out photosynthesis and provides the fungus with food. The fungus has the ability to absorb water, and provides the algae with an adequate water supply.
Lichens can be found in nearly every habitat on earth. They are particularly susceptible to environmental changes and are often an indicator of air pollution in an area. If the lichens are not thriving, there is sure to be a reason. Lichens are also used to make dyes and perfumes.