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News, notes, trip reports, and the lighter side (of the wilder side) of the Oregon environmental and conservation movement.
The partial veil of this mushroom might leave you guessing.
Questionable Stropharia, Stropharia ambigua
The names “ambiguous” or “questionable” are used to best describe this mushroom of “uncertain edibility”. Mushroom expert David Arora well discourages most people from thinking about eating any by noting that others say it taste like “old leaves”. Rather than its taste, it is this mushroom’s striking appearance--with a moist and viscid yellowish cap, and white scaly, cottony stem--that makes it most notable.
This Stropharia’s remarkable, short lived, white partial veil (or annulus) is membranous, and often leaves a similarly transitory, or soon disappearing, ring on the stalk that may capture a few of its falling purple-black spores. The generic name “Stropharia” means “with a twisted band” perhaps in reference to this non-distinct annulus or partial veil remnant.
Better a feast for the eyes, than a feast for the stomach.
Western Grisette, Amanita pachycolea
Before anyone eats any white-gilled and white-spored mushroom, they need to be able to identify various species in the genus Amanita. The name Amanita comes from an ancient term for a mushroom, and contains a few edible, but most notably some of our most poisonous mushroom species. The second part of the species name “pachycolea” comes from the Greek roots pachy meaning “thick, and koleos a “sheath”-- likely in reference to the thick sheath at the base of the mushroom’s stem (discussed among the characteristics described here below). The word “grisette” actually comes from a name for a late 17th century French working women, who apparently wore dresses made from an inexpensive gray fabric.
The Halloween edition provides a few scary reasons for not sampling every purplish mushroom out there.
Blewit—Clitocybe (Lepista) nuda
A very edible, and very popular mushroom with mushroom hunters across North America and in Europe is the bluish-purple Blewit. While this is a species that is often collected by beginners, I know of few species that have a more complicated variety of characteristics, resembling in many ways other species of mushrooms, which it is not—and most importantly, ones you do not want to eat. While the smooth, dry surfaced cap and gills are initially purple (or purple shaded slightly with brown), as the mushroom ages it (and its gills) rapidly fade to a brownish tan.
This mushroom appears in the fall, after the first frost. It seems to have the ability to decompose all manner of organic matter, including even old, shredded newspapers. Thus, as a very non-fussy eater, Blewits are found in a very wide variety of habitats--including forest, gardens, along paths, in fields under blackberry stems and (maybe happiest of all) in compost piles.
It’s hard not to pig out on this “little pig.”
King Bolete, Boletus edulis
Common throughout western North America, and many other parts of the world, Boletus edulis has numerous common names--most notably are King Bolete, Cep, Steinpilz, and Porcini (meaning “little pig”).
In Oregon I have found them only associated conifers, although they are also reported under oaks and birch in other parts of their range. Particularly, on our coast they are found in sandy areas, being ectomycorhizzal with shore pine (Pinus contorta). Here, following early fall rains, King Boletes often appear by mid-October, but may not make a full appearance in years when the first soaking rains hold off until November. In the spring it can sometimes often be found in the Cascade Mountains at elevations above 1,000 feet.
Take a look next to some manure and you just may find this iconic mushroom.
The “classic” Meadow Mushroom, Agaricus campestris
After these first soaking fall rains, before you run out into the woods, first take a look around grassy fields, (and dare I say it), yes, cattle fields and horse pastures, is where this species grows.
The humble and delectable meadow mushroom, Agaricus campestris, is a cosmopolitan species, and is our closest wild relative to the mushrooms you typically buy at the grocery store, Agaricus bisporus.
However, most people can’t easily digest every Agaricus out there, so per usual, a very specific identification is important. A few species of Agaricus can cause, digestive upsets (to put it politely).
A warning in red and blue.
Red-Pored Bolete, Boletus pulcherrimus
While some species of mushrooms in the genus “Boletus” are generally regarded as among the best tasting fleshly fungi in all of nature, the general advice is to be sure of your identification before eating any Boletuses that bruise blue, but particularly NEVER eat a Bolete with bright red pores! As the Red-Pored Bolete, Boletus pulcherrimus has both of these “to avoid” characteristics, here’s what one looks like that you definitely do not want to eat.
The cap which can be just over three inches, to just under 10 inches across, is dry on top and brown in color. Most parts of this mushroom immediately stain blue when cut in half or bruised. Additionally, the stipe (stem) which is usually, but not always, club shaped to bulbous, has a dark red, reticulated (fine net-like pattern) over the upper half when examined close up.
This week's mushroom (actually a lichen) has perhaps the most entertaining name yet.
"Fairy Puke Lichen," Icmadophila ericetorum
While you have to stretch your neck, to look up to best admired some of Oregon’s tallest Douglas firs, “Fairy Puke Lichen” is generally much closer to the ground, and far less assuming.
When walking through old growth forests in search of the first breaking buds of spring, also keep your eyes pealed, that you don’t trip over without noticing, these mostly blue-green colored lichens.
Primarily growing on well rotted, old down trees or logs, Fairy Puke Lichen is blotched with what apparently to some look like pale or pinkish chunks contained in the fairy regurgitations. Actually these roundish, pillow like lumps are “apothecial disks” (the reproductive structures of the fungus portion of a lichen). If you don’t like that explanation, then another interpretation is that the forest fairies have clearly just been eating too many of the wrong kind of mushrooms.
This week's featured mushroom isn't really a mushroom at all - it's a lichen.
Devil’s Matchsticks, Pilophorus acicularis
Whether you have been successful or not in finding last week’s featured February fungus, Xylaria hypoxylon or Candlesnuff Fungus, while on the out look for these skinny, wilted candles, also keep an eye open for the “fungal matches” perhaps useful (by the devil) in lighting these “candles” (before they are snuffed out by winter’s cold). Thus, the featured species of the week is Devil’s Matchstick Lichen-- Pilophorus acicularis (formerly Pilophoron aciculare in older texts).
While looking for either species, you have to think small here again. This lichen (a fungus and algae that have evolved together in mutual benefit) is probably easier to find than most mushrooms this time of year—whose fungal mycelia persist now primarily under, rather than above, the ground.
As the mushroom season comes to a close, we feature an appropriate fungi.
Candlesnuff Fungus, Xylaria hypoxylon
Now that it’s February, and almost all mushrooms have disappeared, one to still look for in winter (but can be seen year around) is Xylaria hypoxlyon or Candlesnuff Fungus. This slender, erect, black fungi often branches near its tips, and thus also has the common name: Carbon Antlers.
While you really can’t eat this fibrous fungus, you can still enjoy its unusual form that reminds some of an extinguished candle, that now like this year’s mushroom season, has pretty much been snuffed out by the colder weather.
Another winter/spring mushroom with a wacky name.
Jelly Babies, Leotia lubrica
Jelly Babies are slimy, non-edible but harmless, mushrooms in the Ascomycetes. This means their spores are born in microscopic sacs along the upper surface of the cap, with the undersides of the mushroom being sterile, and thus also lacking the familiar spore producing "gills" of most other mushrooms.
Jelly Babies mostly sprout in winter and early spring growing either singly or in groups from soil or extremely rotted wood, and are found in both conifer and hardwood forests.