October 4, 2010

2010 Vacation Mushroom Wrap-up, Part 1

We're back from our annual autumn vacation. This year it was Vermont. The vacation started great with a bunch of edible mushrooms right in the yard, and ended with something else right in the yard - the New Haven river. With water rising we ended the vacation a day early.

Here are some of the fungal highlights (both edible, non-edible and in-between).


Found this nice Polyporus squamosus (Dryad's Saddle) right in the yard. As you can see, we weren't the first to find it... slugs, slow as they seem, ALWAYS seem to get there first. This one had a handful of slugs eating into the cap's flesh. (Those white scrapes are the result.) Field guides often differ on the edibility of Dryad's Saddle. Most will list it as non-edible, but a few claim that the tender edges can be sauteed. One of my wife's edible mushroom guides says that it can be "eaten raw, too, but only in modest quantity." And that "tender slices have a slightly crunchy texture, and the flavor somewhat like watermelon (but without any sweetness). Ummm... wouldn't that be water? Okay, maybe pink water? Anyway, Stacey tried some raw, lived to tell the tale, and reports it was sort of all right.


Also in the yard (and also with a slug or two) was a nice chunk of Herecium coralloides (Comb Tooth). We've often found this in the fall, and this was one of the better specimens. A few tears ago in New Hampshire, we found a massive chunk about twelve feet up in a tree. I found a large branch and jabbed it until it fell. The idea was to catch it. Of course I hadn't really thought through the fact that I'd still be holding the branch when it fell... so how was I going to catch it? As it turned out, with my face. Unfortunately we have yet to find a foolproof way to cook these. We tried. And failed. I mean it was acceptable, but not as good as I read it can be. If anyone has a preferred way to cook these, let me know!


You're walking in the woods, minding your own business, when BAM! there it is. A stinkhorn. This is Phallus ravenelii (Ravenel's Stinkhorn). I have a few photos of these and this is the first where some of the spore mass (that middle shiny band on the head) is still intact. The spore mass is actually what stinks on a stinkhorn. Since the spore mass is sticky, it is unable to disperse the way that many other spores do - via wind. The putrid smell attracts flies and other insects that conduct the dispersal for the mushroom. Stinky, but smart.

Up next: Part 2 of fungal finds.

September 4, 2010

Odds and Ends... But More Odds, Really


Just catching up on a few things I've had sitting around in my iPhoto folder.

This was from a food exhibit we saw at Mass MOCA this past March. Entitled "Mushroom Weightlifter" it was from a series of photographs from the book Food Play by Saxton Freymann.

It's a little creepy really.


And here's another one with a mushroom village and lots of mushroom antics taking place. They obviously like to give each other flowers and dance around. I'd be keeping my eye on that pepper though.

September 1, 2010

What a Lousy Summer...

for mushrooms. Barely any rain, lots of heat. I canceled all the walks I had scheduled over the past few months. There were certainly a few mushrooms to admire here and there, but it's a bit hard to spend 90 minutes gawking over a half-eaten Platterful mushroom. And for those of you reading from afar, I'm referencing the weather in eastern Massachusetts this past summer.

The rains did return (in a big way) a couple weeks back and finally... FINALLY... there are some mushrooms popping up. Probably not enough to save the summer but at least a little something to enjoy.
This Chicken mushroom (Laetiporus sulphureus) had come up originally in June, as it has in this same spot for the past few years. When the heat came, it quickly dried, turned crumbly white, and decomposed. I thought that was it for the year. But after this recent pounding of rain, it decided to rear its head again.

Let's hope that fall brings more rain.

May 22, 2010

Orange Trees? Not Quite.


What do you get when you have lots of spring rain, cedar trees, and apple trees? You get an invasion of rusts - in this case, Cedar-Apple Rusts (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginiana).

Rusts are considered parasitic fungi that attack a variety of hosts. Here, the unfortunate hosts are cedar trees and apple trees. The two types of trees need to be in proximity to each other for the rust to "take." In these pictures taken at the Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary in Belmont, MA, the cedars and apples are within fifty yards of each other.


A closeup of the rust shows its jelly-like tentacles or horns sprouting from a hard, acorn-like gall. After a rain, or especially during a day-long mist, these horns come out in all their glory, dangling off the cedars in a spiderish manner. They can easily expand to the size of your fist. After a day or two of sun, they dry up, then return at the next rain. Eventually the hardened galls die but they can stay attached to the tree into the next year or even longer.


The rust doesn't appear in this form on apple tree though. Instead, the apple leaves get orange-brown lesions. The rust reproduces and continues its life cycle by spreading spores between the two trees. This can go on year after year after year.

They are not difficult to see. Here's a few trying to blend in with a tractor... but I caught them.

For additional information, check out the UMass Extension website for a helpful PDF.

May 20, 2010

Mushroom Season 2010 Begins

Sorry for the long delay in posts. I think it'll be a little easier now that the mushrooms have started to appear.

I found this nice patch of Wine Caps (Stropharia rugosoannulata) alongside a trail yesterday. These are one of the first large gilled mushrooms to appear in the spring and with the recent rain, they certainly appeared.


One of the things that's great about most mushrooms is how different they can look over the course of just a few days... or even just a few hours. This is one of the reasons people get so flummoxed when trying to ID mushrooms. In the picture above, you have a fairly "classic" look of the fruiting body - stocky stem, rounded cap, a few nicks and gouges where something's taken a bit (not me!). When we see mushrooms in this stage it's easy to forget that they can also look like -


Wow! That's quite a difference. The once-rounded, bun-like cap flattened, and then began to upturn. What you're now looking at was once the UNDERSIDE of the mushroom. Those blackish crevices are the gills which are usually tucked up inside the cap. Though you can't see it very well, the color of the cap has changed too. Once a brick red, dark brown has lightened to tan.

Notice the ring around the stem. A good ID feature of a Wine Cap. Also, just at the upper edge of the ring is often a dark horizontal line. The spores, as you can imagine from the photo, are a dark purplish brown or purplish black.

Mushrooms are not much like birds. Usually when you see one bird, the others of that species look the same as adults, and by gender. Not so much with mushrooms.

And of course mushrooms tend to sit still.

For more info on Wine Caps, check out MushroomExpert.com