It's hard to choose a favorite among the millions (estimates are between 2.2 and 3.8 million!) of species of fungi who live on this Earth, but I have always been drawn to Elfin Saddles, or fungal species of the genus Helvella. Even the common name of these WEIRD looking species is whimsical and special! These species can be found many places, but I personally have only unearthed them in the Bay Area of California, Upper peninsula of Michigan, and southern Wisconsin, US, and in a forest near Edmonton, Canada. But I'm not stopping my search anytime soon as these weirdos give me a jolt of joy every time I find one!
These fungi are shaped somewhat like the typical mushroom with a cap and a stalk, but they are more closely related to yeasts (look to your bread or beer to find yeasts - yes, they are fungi too!) than the grocery store mushroom. You can see hints of this when you slice a Helvella in half (last photo above). The scientific word is still out whether these function as decomposers or mutualists with trees, however when we describe new species, we often include the nearby tree species. Maybe one day my love of this species will translate into researching their ecology, or how they function in ecosystems. Until then, taking a portrait of every Helvella I find will have to suffice.