Young Oyster Mushrooms on a Tree by Todd Henson

A small cluster of young oyster mushrooms growing on a tree in the woods.

Mushrooms and fungi can be a common sight when hiking through the woods. You can find them growing from the ground and on living or dead trees. The mushrooms pictured here are growing from a living tree, and I believe they are a small cluster of young oyster mushrooms which are from the Pleurotus family. I found this cluster just off the trail in a Northern Virginia park in early September.

Front view of a small cluster of young oyster mushrooms.

Notice the interesting shapes of the gills that run down the stem of these mushrooms, how they run down the entire length. As they mature the caps will grow much larger and possibly darken a bit. The stem below the cap will almost disappear, leaving just the large cap and the gills underneath it.

Oyster mushrooms are a popular edible mushroom commonly found in grocery stores, though don’t take anything here as advice on harvesting them. I am still very much an amateur at identifying mushroom species.


Eastern American Toad on the Trail by Todd Henson

Front angled view of an eastern American toad

I’ve mentioned before to look down once in a while when hiking in the woods, that you never know what you might see. In this case we saw an eastern American toad almost hidden on the trail. These are fairly common in this area, but it’s still always great to see one, especially when it’s patient enough to let me photograph it.

We found this toad in a wetlands park on a trail through woods that border the wetlands. A perfect environment for it, but being in the woods it was fairly dark. So I had to boost my ISO to 2000 - 4000 to have a fast enough shutter speed, and even with that these photos were shot between 1/25 and 1/40 of a second. This toad was fairly calm, though, which made things a little easier. It’s always nice having a cooperative subject.

Side view of an eastern American toad

I tried to photograph it from a variety of angles to capture as many details as I could for later identification. I’m not an expert at identifying wildlife so I’m always trying to learn more, and one thing I’ve learned is to capture as many details as possible while in the field. In this area the American toad can be confused with the Fowler’s toad, and apparently these species can hybridize, which makes a positive identification more challenging.

After consulting several field guides and online resources I believe this to be an American toad. It has a single wart in most of the dark patches on its back, which is indicative of an American toad. Fowler’s toads tend to have 3 to 7 warts in each patch. In the front view you can see some dark spots on its underside, again indicative of an American toad.

Back view of an eastern American toad

If you think I’ve misidentified this toad please leave a comment and let me know what you think it is and why. Thanks.


Resources

The resources below contain affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

Websites

Virginia Herpetological Society

Books

I own the following 3 books, though my editions may be older than those shown. I love Charles Fergus’ book, Wildlife of Virginia and Maryland and Washington, D.C. It’s not a field guide and only contains drawings of some of the wildlife, but it has lots of information on the species that live in this area. The Peterson and Audubon Field Guides are my current go to guides.


A Bench Beside the Gardens by Todd Henson

A Bench Beside the Gardens, at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Many years ago my brother and I visited the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. This is a beautiful location, with both indoor and outdoor gardens. The indoor gardens are contained in various rooms within the large Conservatory, and include a wide range of plant-life, from jungle to desert environments. The outdoor gardens surround the Conservatory, with their National Garden to one side and Bartholdi Park just across the street.

While walking the outside gardens we found this lovely scene, with a wooden bench set against a brick and stucco wall surrounded by potted plants. A great location to sit, take a short rest, and admire some of the beautiful outdoor scenery. And, I thought, a beautiful subject for a photograph.

If you ever have the opportunity, stop by and visit the U.S. Botanic Garden. I thought it was well worth the trip. If you do (or have) let me know what you thought of it.

A Bench Beside the Gardens is available for purchase as wall art or on a variety of products.