This is a unique moment in all of my decades here at Sewanee. For the first time ever — for me — we have neither Harry nor Jean Yeatman to call when we need a rattlesnake caught, a bird rescued (or stuffed), or a plant identified! Harry died a year ago, and just this summer we lost Jean. Truly Sewanee is poorer for the loss of these avid and knowledgeable naturalists!
My friend Ursula Knoll came up against Sewanee’s new “Yeatmanlessness” this weekend. She had found a huge — enormous — mushroom growing in her yard. She wanted to know what it was, so who to call? Full of apology, she phoned me. (“I don’t know who to call, Mary, and I thought you might know this mushroom…”)
So of course I gave it my best. I went by Ursula’s, took some measurements and photos, and went home to study my field guides. There are lots of photos and descriptions of mushrooms in books and on the web, but real mycologists — like botanists — key these things out. And I discovered that mushroom keys all start with spore color — you have to know the color of the spores before you can begin to have a chance at identifying an unknown mushroom.
Okay, I didn’t have that all-important character. But the thing really was large — 10.5″ across the cap — and had a hefty volva at the bottom of the stipe (stem) and a bit of a veil at the top. It was a gilled mushroom that lacked bits of broken veil on the top. I did the best I could and phoned Ursula with what I told her was my guess — Amanita fulva, or tawny griselle. Who’s to know? I just hope she was happy that I gave it my best try!
Jean Yeatman’s interment service will be held on Oct. 24 at 11 a.m. at Saint John’s Church, Ashwood, Tenn. Her life will be celebrated at a remembrance reception Oct. 25 at 2 p.m. in St. Mark’s Hall of Otey Parish in Sewanee, Tenn. The family requests that memorial donations be made to Friends of South Cumberland State Park, P.O. Box 816, Sewanee, TN 37375 or online at <www.friendsofscsra.org>.