The fungus appeared suddenly in early August: shelflike fruiting structures on an enormous dead ash tree that marked the boundary between our property and that of our neighbor to the south.
They seemed to appear overnight. One morning I looked out my kitchen window, and there they were. So I made a cup of coffee and walked into the woods to investigate. The color of the fungus was extraordinary: It glowed like hot coals. At first glance, it looked artificial, like a pile of discarded orange traffic cones. But how would they have gotten into our woods?
The bizarre organisms clustered thickly around the base of the tree and climbed its trunk, sprouting in the crotches of limbs 20 feet high. They looked like invaders from outer space in a 1950s horror film.
A little research revealed them to be Laetiporus sulphureus. It forms in late summer and weakens the tree so much that experts recommend taking it down immediately before it endangers people or structures. Indeed, broken limbs surrounded the trunk.
We won’t miss the tree, and it’s too far from our house to be a threat. What seemed most strange was how fast it all happened. This was not the decline and fall of the Roman Empire; it was breaking news.