Another dead oak tree and another fungal treasure. This one looks like a frozen waterfall or an ice palace. Stark white arms, dripping with tiny icicles, stand out against the dark backdrop of the log. This is comb’s tooth fungus (Hericium ramosum), a slightly uncommon find. It has two similar lookalikes in the area, but the somewhat larger conifer coral is found only on–you guessed it–conifers, while old man’s beard looks just like its name; a shaggy, unbranched mass that could readily be transferred to adorn a cartoon character’s chin.
One caveat: my mushroom guide is somewhat out of date, and I think that H. ramosum is now named H. corralloides, while the mushroom formerly known as H. corralloides is now H. americanum, which grows only in the east. But because most websites and identification guides still use the old name, I decided to go with the flow and not delve too deeply into this taxonomic tangle.