Sunday, March 9, 2008

Fairy Parasols

In emerald tufts, flowers purple, blue, and white;
Like sapphire, pearl, and rich embroidery,
Buckled below fair knighthood’s bending knee:
Fairies use flowers for their charactery

The Merry Wives of Windsor (5.5.48-51)

"fairy parasol", mycena Wishart Conservation Forest, September 2007

Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Basidiomycetes
Order: Agaricales
Family: Tricholomataceae
Genus: Mycena

I don't know how it happens, but for the second time, In the Key of Charles on CBC Radio, which I'm listening to as I compose this, perfectly suits my subject. How does he do that? Today, his theme is "magic", mine: Fairy Parasols. With a playlist including Bewitched/Ella Fitzgerald, The Magic Flute and *SWOON*Un' Aura Amorosa, K 588 No 17*SWOON* (a cappella, Mozart), to A Kind Of Magic/Classic Queen!!!, and Beethoven's Rondo, Opus 51, NO. 1, to Puff The Magic Dragon, and Sorcerer's Apprentice, Symphonic Scherzo / Yan is complimenting my magic fairy carpet ride through mycena mycology this morning very nicely.

I started by reading this: Tiptoeing Through the Toadstools: Mushrooms in Victorian Fairy Paintings by Moselio Schaechter, from Mushroom: A Journal of Wild Mushrooming, a neat little article on a similar theme. I could easily get sidetracked searching through literature and mythology references, but I think trying to explain the origin of the nick name "fairy parasol" isn't necessary. It's easy to imagine the little waifs of fungi getting scooped up and carried off by a forest fairy. Also referred to as pixies parasols - and I think fairy's or pixie's "bonnets" as well in some instances; either way, they're used by forest sprites and interest me greatly. I love when science and folklore collide.

Supreme Court Judge Barron Field penned one of the earliest works of poetry published in New South Wales. The First Fruits of Australian Verse (George Howe in 1819, pub.), many being reflections on the colony's distinctive flora and fauna, included 'Botany Bay Flowers', wherein he refers to the parasol mushrooms being used by fairies distinctively, though also questioning their need by asking "If Fairies walk by day at all". (Of course we all know they walk by day, just like Smurfs. I've never never met one, or know anyone who's met one......yet.)

The innumerable mycena species make it impossible for me to positively identify my little parasols, pictured above, found in September 2007 in Wishart. Their thread-like stems were about as tall as a Q-Tips popping out of the forest floor, with little pleated-striate caps delicately balanced atop. Such waifs - I could hardly believe they could stand upright. is a fantastic resource. ;)

* Popular Studies in Mythology Romance and Folklore: The Fairy Mythology of Shakespeare
by Alfred Nutt (May 2006)

The Fairies in Tradition and Literature Katharine Briggs
Routledge; 2 edition (July 30, 2002)

The Dictionary of Imaginary Places: The Newly Updated and Expanded Classic
Harcourt; Exp Upd edition (November 2, 2000)

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