While taking a Winter walk in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, this bright fungus caught my eye.
Its distinguishing features include orange coloration and often being found crowded on the dead twigs, branches and stumps of deciduous trees from July through January.
The fruiting bodies of look like fans, with tiny ripple patterns on the them. They are about three quarters of an inch wide, project sideways from branches, logs, and stumps, and may fuse together, side by side.
This is the most common parchment fungus and unlike mushrooms, it grows without a stalk. The key role of these forest recyclers is to break down dead matter and return nutrients to the soil to become available to plants once again.
The function of fungi in breaking down dead wood is crucial. Wood is so tough that animals cannot digest it. However, certain fungi are able to biodegrade it using enzymes, allowing the vast amounts of dead wood in woodlands to be broken down.