1895: A Forest of Colossal Fungi

John_Uri_Lloyd_-_Etidorhpa.djvuAlong the chamber through which we now passed I saw by the mellow light great pillars, capped with umbrella-like covers, some of them reminding me of the common toadstool of upper earth, on a magnificent scale. Instead, however, of the gray or somber shades to which I had been accustomed, these objects were of various hues and combined the brilliancy of the primary prismatic colors, with the purity of clean snow. Now they would stand solitary, like gigantic sentinels; again they would be arranged in rows, the alignment as true as if established by the hair of a transit, forming columnar avenues, and in other situations they were wedged together so as to produce masses, acres in extent, in which the stems became hexagonal by compression. The columnar stems, larger than my body, were often spiral; again they were marked with diamond-shaped figures, or other regular geometrical forms in relief, beautifully exact, drawn as by a master’s hand in rich and delicately blended colors, on pillars of pure alabaster. Not a few of the stems showed deep crimson, blue, or green, together with other rich colors combined; over which, as delicate as the rarest of lace, would be thrown, in white, an enamel-like intricate tracery, far surpassing in beauty of execution the most exquisite needle-work I had ever seen. There could be no doubt that I was in a forest of colossal fungi, the species of which are more numerous than those of upper earth cryptomatic vegetation. The expanded heads of these great thallogens were as varied as the stems I have described, and more so. Far above our path they spread like beautiful umbrellas, decorated as if by masters from whom the great painters of upper earth might humbly learn the art of mixing colors. Their under surfaces were of many different designs, and were of as many shapes as it is conceivable could be made of combinations of the circle and hyperbola. Stately and picturesque, silent and immovable as the sphinx, they studded the great cavern singly or in groups, reminding me of a grown child’s wild imagination of fairy land. I stopped beside a group that was of unusual conspicuity and gazed in admiration on the huge and yet graceful, beautiful spectacle. I placed my hand on the stem of one plant, and found it soft and impressible; but instead of being moist, cold, and clammy as the repulsive toadstool of upper earth, I discovered, to my surprise, that it was pleasantly warm, and soft as velvet.

“Smell your hand,” said my guide.

I did so, and breathed in an aroma like that of fresh strawberries. My guide observed (I had learned to judge of his emotions by his facial expressions) my surprised countenance with indifference.

“Try the next one,” he said.

This being of a different species, when rubbed by my hand exhaled the odor of the pineapple.

“Extraordinary,” I mused.

John Uri Lloyd, Etidorhpa (1895)

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