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Showing posts from May, 2022

Yellow Blusher

  Life wasn't kind to these Yellow Blushers ( Amanita flavorubens ). They began with a great deal of promise, but conditions dried out just as they were coming to fruition, and the best looking one (in the third photo) was destroyed overnight by some critter. The one in the last photo just got too late a start and withered on the vine. When these are healthy and full grown, they are some of the loveliest and most distinctive mushrooms. The Amanita  genus is easy to identify. They are medium-sized mushrooms with a smooth cap usually spotted with warts. The warts are the remnants of the universal veil that envelops these mushrooms when young. That veil breaks, leaving the warts on the cap and a volva (a little sack at the base of the mushroom usually in the ground). Amanitas also usually have a partial veil that covers the gills and then breaks leaving a ring around the stem. Thus, if you see a mushroom with white gills, a volva, a warty cap, and a ring around the stem, you know you

Xeruloid Mushroom

  This is a mushroom in the Hymenopellis  genus. The cap measures 5.5 cm. The stem is 8.5 cm long, 1 cm wide at the base, and 5 mm wide at the top. The mushroom is dry, though a fresher specimen can be slightly oily. It's flesh is white and fairly firm. Its most distinctive feature is its "taproot," which is visible in the second-to-last photo.  There are several very similar mushrooms in this genus that can only be distinguished microscopically. Based on what I've seen, I think this is H. incognita  or H. furfuracea , but I'm not sure. It could also be H. megalospora . The spores were approximately 18 μm. Prior to 2010, this mushroom was in the Xerula genus. And I'm satisfied for now simply to call this a Xeruloid mushroom. As Michael Kuo describes this group: "Xeruloid mushrooms comprise a sub-set of the collybioid mushrooms, and can be recognized by their tall and slender stature, their white spore prints and their tough, rooting stems, which taper und

Candlesnuff Fungus

  I found this Candlesnuff Fungus ( Xylaria hypoxylon ) growing on some well-decayed wood in the uplands. They are lumpy and irregular, mostly over 4 cm tall and about 5 mm wide. The white exterior is a coating of asexual spores that can be easily scraped off revealing a dark brown layer that can be scraped off, too, revealing a white interior. Arora says there are several Xylaria species resembling this one that can only be distinguished microscopically. The similar Xylaria polymorpha  is up to 3 cm thick and resembles fingers, hence its common name: Dead Man's Fingers.

Red-cracked Bolete

Boletes comprise a huge number of mushrooms, many with very subtle differences, but I'm fairly confident this is Xerocomellus chrysenteron  (syn. Boletus chrysenteron ). This one has a mostly flat, soft, reddish, and cracked cap 5.5 cm wide. The pore-tubes (diagnostic of boletes in general) are yellow and bruise blue-green almost immediately. The pores are angular (though they look round in the photo) and are roughly a millimeter across. The stalk is 4 cm long and an even 1 cm wide. The stalk has the same reddish color as the cap at the base and then more yellow upward. Toward the top, there are red spots, but these aren't rough nor do they smear. Red-cracked Boletes are edible but definitely not delectable. The texture is pleasant enough, but there's not much taste. Likewise, they're small and don't grow in large groups, so they're not really worth harvesting. They're better enjoyed with the eye than the mouth. I arrived at my identification by using Bolete


  There are several types of puffballs in several genera. This one is Vascellum curtisii . Key features: the small size (2 cm), the prominent pyramidal spines that are easily rubbed off, and the round rather than pear shape. Habitat is also an important detail: this, unlike the closely related Lycoperdon marginatum , grows in grassy, disturbed areas. I found this growing on a bare patch of ground in our field.  Mushrooms of the Midwest lists this as a late summer/fall species, but seasonality in mushrooms can be quite variable.  Puffballs are edible. But you should always cut them in half to make sure that they are pure white (like the one pictured here) and that the interior is solid rather than showing a developing cap-and-stem mushroom. If you do see something like that, you probably have a young (and potentially poisonous) Amanita. 

The Pale Jelly Roll

  The Pale Jelly Roll. The current scientific name is Ductifera pululahuana , but I prefer its other name, the simpler  Exidia alba . This grows on well-decayed logs, typically after the bark has fallen off. It's firmer than Wood Ear and Amber Jelly Roll. This is the first I've seen this mushroom this year. Two other similar species are Tremella reticulata , which is more coral-like and grows on the ground, and Tremella fuciformis , which is less glob-like and more translucent.  Emerson writes in the third chapter of Nature : "There is no object so foul that intense light will not make beautiful. And the stimulus it affords to the sense, and a sort of infinitude which it hath, like space and time, make all matter gay. Even the corpse has its own beauty." So it is, as to catch these in the light of the morning sun is a joy. So too the wet and glistening lobes under magnification. So too just time spent with these mysterious formations in the cool, dark, and moist realm

Witches' Butter

  Witches' Butter, Tremella mesenterica , is a common mushroom that can be found growing on hardwood throughout the year, but I never find it growing abundantly, just isolated little patches like this. (This one's 4 cm across.) A similar species is the Orange Jelly Fungus ( Dacrymyces chrysospermus ), which grows on conifers and is a bit more orange. An interesting fact about Witches' Butter is that it is parasitic on crust fungi.

Jelly Rolls

  The day after I harvested the Wood Ears , we had a storm with high winds that littered the ground with debris. On some fallen branches I found these, Amber Jelly Roll ( Exidia recisa)  and Black Jelly Roll ( Exidia glandulosa ), which are easy to tell apart when seen together. Black Jelly Roll is darker, tends to grow together into clumps, and appears more brain-like. It's also not as translucent as Amber Jelly Roll. In my experience, these always grow on thin branches like these (about an inch wide). Wood Ears can be found on thicker branches.

Wood Ear

  The Wood Ear, Auricularia auricula , is a very common mushroom found year-round. It's easy to confuse with the Amber Jelly Roll, Exidia recisa. The Wood Ear is larger, duller, and more ear-shaped, but until you see them in the field, positive ID can be difficult. The good news is that both of these (and other similar mushrooms) are edible. They have no flavor to speak of, but they have an interesting texture. I like to eat them in soup. I put this batch in some miso soup. They have an anticoagulant property, so I wouldn't eat them before surgery! But they're a good mushroom to eat if you have high cholesterol. They have also shown anti-tumor activity and have some other health benefits. Here's  an article  summarizing recent research. Wood Ears are quite different from the classic cap-and-stem mushroom. Their spores are contained in a gelatinous mass that keeps them moist when conditions dry out. I spotted these about a month ago. We had a two-week dry spell and they

Chocolate-tube Slime

  What's in a name? That which we call a Chocolate-tube Slime, by any other name would smell as sweet. Well, I didn't notice a smell, but this slime mold in the Stemonitis genus is a marvel. It's about a millimeter wide, and when I squeezed the tops, they produced little clouds of spores.  A few years ago, I purchased a hand lens, which I take with me on most outings--precisely for moments like these, to appreciate the other-worldly architecture of the little things of this world.

Milky Cone Cap

  Got muggy weather? Then look in your yard and you're likely to see these little fellows. They have many common names and many scientific names (Michael Kuo lists them under  Conocybe apala ; David Arora, Conocybe lactea ), but they're fairly easy to identify: a white cone-shaped cap and a thin, very delicate stalk. Combine these features with muggy weather, and you've got the Milky Cone Cap, but not for long: I photographed this one mid-morning, and it was gone by noon.  These can also be called Pale Coneheads, which is what Conocybe apala  means.

Orange Mycena

  Orange Mycena, Mycena leaiana , a brilliant orange mushroom, resembling in color the much larger Jack O'Lantern mushroom. I found these at Ferne Clyffe State Park. The weather has been unusually dry for May, and especially hot, so few mushrooms are out, and even some of these (as you can see in the last photo) are stressed from the heat. Like all Mycenas, these are fairly small. The longest stem among these was 5 cm. The caps were around 2 cm. They're a little sticky and quite bright when fresh but dry out and fade over time. In the first photo, the ones in the foreground are fresher than those in the back. Other than color, another key feature is the marginate gills, which means the edges of the gills are a different color from the sides. In fact, the spore print is white. A good tip for the new mushroom hunter: never make an assumption about spore-print color.  Another lesson taught by Mycenas is discussed by David Arora in Mushrooms Demystified where he contrasts the hunte

Russula vinacea

  Russula vinacea , I'm pretty sure, but Russulas, although easy to identify at the genus level, are difficult at the species level. The Mushroom Expert has a long and interesting article on  The Genus Russula . And the specimens photographed here fit his description of  R. vinacea . I found these growing in the uplands with Shagbark Hickory and White Oak. I saw my first of these this year on May 7. Often you will find them shattered and scattered about in bits and pieces. In his inestimable Mushrooms Demystified , David Arora advises us "to resist the sharp temptation to mash, maim, and mutilate them" (p. 84). I don't destroy them. (I'm not seven years old after all.) But I wonder if their frangible nature is part of their spore-dispersal strategy. Many mushrooms eject their spores in various ways. Might the Russula's tendency to shatter be a variation on this design?

Coral Slime

  Coral slime, Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, is a slime mold, not a mushroom, but it's close enough to include here. Slime molds are extraordinary creatures. I've written about them  elsewhere . Lacy Johnson has also written about them in her essay for Orion Magazine ,  What Slime Knows . Among the many things we can learn from slime molds is to slow down and pay closer attention. Most people walking through the woods would see this white patch on a dead log and dismiss it as mere mold. Instead, pause for a moment, take out your hand lens, and observe closely this entity as lovely and fascinating as anything in the Great Barrier Reef. The individual tubes are about a millimeter wide and up to a centimeter long. At a distance, coral slime looks like white fuzz, but as you can tell from the first image, it's actually a mass of little tubes. The spores are produced on the outside of the tubes.

Orange-mat Ink Cap

Also called the Orange-mat Coprinus. It's current Latin binomial is  Coprinellus domesticus. It's an ink cap mushroom, which means it deliquesces into black inky goo. You wouldn't think so to look at it: when fresh, the mushroom's flesh is white through and through. I found these growing on a rotting river birch limb. It has two distinctive features: the white granules on the cap that will wash away and the orange mycelial mat (ozonium), which is not always present. Thus, it's not the easiest mushroom to identify. Note also how quickly it changes. The first two pictures were taken around 5 pm. The third was taken at 7 am the next morning. A striking transformation.  The name Coprinellus domesticus  derives from the fact that it can grow inside houses, on wood in basements and even on bathroom mats. It might be worth living in squalor to see these lovely little mushrooms growing in your home! This is one of many mushrooms with a complicated taxonomy. In older field g