Posted by: lornasass | April 7, 2010


When I have my camera slung around my neck, I always see more than I would otherwise because I’m looking for pictures.  There are good pictures to be taken everywhere, but in NYC the subjects can be especially surprising.

On what was otherwise a fairly ordinary day, while making my way to Zabar’s on foot, I looked to the left on West 81st Street between Columbus and Amsterdam and saw a tree stump surrounded by mushrooms.  It was just sitting there to the left of a brownstone, and people walked in and out of the building paying me no mind as I was taking this picture.  I was astonished and they didn’t seem to care a bit about this unusual crop outside their building, but this is just another example of the privacy in public that is a specialty of NYC…

I don’t know what variety of mushrooms this is, and I wouldn’t recommend that anyone go foraging for dinner on West 81st Street unless they are planning to end up doing the hunting and gathering at Zabar’s.

On the way home, I again took West 81st heading back east.  This time I was on the north side of the street and spotted something I must have passed hundred of times before.  Behind some very dirty windows behind and below the pet store on Amsterdam and 81st is an animal shelter.  Who knew? Here is one of the half dozen cats I saw slumbering in the various windows, seemingly quite content in each other’s company while waiting for adoption.

Sometimes the grittiness of New York City gets me down, but I must remind myself at those moments that what comes with the grit are some very good photo opps.



  1. Agreed. With grit comes photo ops, but also the hope of cleanliness.

    • I think living in NYC and hoping for cleanliness may bring a sense of ongoing disappointment…

  2. Hi Lorna,

    I think what you have here is a wood-rotting mushroom commonly called Coprinus micaceus. This species is part of a larger ‘complex’ of very similar fungi. Field guides usually list them as ‘edible’ but since this genus is known to pick up lead quite easily(remember that the traffic in the upper west side predates unleaded gasoline) and since some in the genus also interact with alcohol in the same way antibuse does, and since countless male dogs have no doubt cocked their leg at these streetside pee posts… well, I wouldn’t eat them.

    Coprinus species are also very quick to melt into a black inky mess from what is called the delequesence’ of their gills. In olden times this provided scribes with an ink for their quill pens.

    If you Google Coprinus, or Coprinellus micaceus you can follow the story in more detail.

    This warmer than normal spring has all sorts of things popping up well ahead of the normal sequence of events. Here in Dutchess County, Leslie and I picked our first asparagus of the season yesterday, and already some had tough woody stem butts.

    • DEEElighted to hear from your erudite self and very jealous about the asparagus. TX for setting me straight on the mushrooms. They are not a “pee” level, because the stump is to the side of some steps. It’s a very strange piece of living street art. Look forward to meeting you one day.

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