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Posts Tagged ‘Fall Fungi’

Though there are mushrooms known as “winter mushrooms” we’ve had a few nights of freezing temperatures now so I think our mushroom hunting season is over. What you’ll find in this post are all the mushrooms I’ve found since the last mushroom post I did in September. Mushrooms can be both interesting and beautiful, and by the end of this post I hope you’ll agree. Hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa,) shown in the above photo, is an edible polypore that often grows in the same spot year after year. I usually find them at the base of very old oak trees. They are called the “dancing mushrooms” in Japan. That’s something my imagination won’t let me see, but I can see the back of a brown hen’s ruffled feathers, and that’s how they come by their common name in this country. They are also called ram’s head or sheep’s head.

Lion’s mane, bear’s head, monkey head, icicle mushroom-call it what you will, Hericium americanum is a toothed fungus that is always fun to find in the woods. Soft spines hang from branches that reach out from a thick central stalk, making it look like a fungal waterfall. They can get quite large and I thik the biggest one I’ve seen was about the size of a grapefruit. Every one I’ve seen has been growing on a log or a dead tree as this one was. Though it was slightly past its prime I thought it was still pretty. This mushroom is edible but unless you can be 100% sure of your identification you should never eat a wild mushroom.

Carnation earth fan (Thelephora terrestris) is also called the common fiber vase. It is a small, tough, inedible fungus that grows on soil. It is said to like sandy soil under pine trees and that’s just where I found it. It is also said to have a moldy, earth like scent, which I didn’t smell. It does look like a carnation. I like its deep reddish-brown color and frosted white edges. It has a cousin called the stinking earth fan (Thelephora palmata) but it looks quite different.

I found quite a large colony of common ink caps (Coprinopsis atramentaria) on a lawn at work, and it was a good thing I found them when I did because the cap margins were starting to roll up.

Once the cap starts rolling like this, this mushroom doesn’t have a lot of future left. Common inkcaps are said to be edible, but they become toxic if consumed with alcohol. For that reason they are known as “tippler’s bane.” They create a strong sensitivity to alcohol by inhibiting the liver’s ability to break it down. You don’t die but you do get very sick.

Inkcaps release their spores by a process called autodigestion, dissolving into an inky liquid which contains their spores. The black, spore rich liquid that this mushroom becomes was once used as ink for printing. They come and go quickly; I’ve seen them disappear in just a day.

White worm coral fungus (Clavaria fragilis) is one of the club fungi, and is also called fairy fingers. Each fruiting body is tubular and unbranched, and they usually grow in clusters like those seen in the photo. I found these very clean examples at the edge of a swamp. They’re fragile so if you want a photo of them complete it’s best not to touch them.

Cockscomb coral mushrooms (Clavulina cristata) are ghostly while and, like many coral mushrooms, seem to prefer growing in hard packed earth like that found on woodland trails, and they often grow in large groups. It’s startling to see something so pure white come out of the dark soil.

The deceiver (Laccaria laccata) gets its common name from the way it resembles many other small mushrooms. When young like these in the photo were they can appear reddish, pinkish brown, or orange. As they age, they can change enough to even appear white or sometimes nearly colorless.  

The rather deep gills of the deceiver are a mixture of long and short. Though when young these gills are dark colored, they lighten as they age and get covered by this mushroom’s white spores. They are said to be edible but with their ability to mimic other mushrooms and a name like the deceiver I’m not sure I’d eat them.

Every time I do a mushroom post I have photos of mushrooms I can’t identify, and this is one of those. I’m adding this shot to this post because they’re a pretty color and fun to look at, and you don’t need to know a name to be able to see their beauty.

In case you’re searching for a name for that mushroom in the previous photos, here are its gills.

I found a big cluster of red painted suillus mushrooms (Suillus spraguei) in a lawn. It is also called the painted slippery cap and red and yellow suillus. The caps are dark red when young like I think these examples were, and develop yellowish cracks as they age. They also have mats of reddish hairs on the cap but it had just rained so they were hard to see.

The real surprise was the hairs on the underside of the cap. They looked like spun sugar, but are really the remnants of a partial veil that once covered the spore bearing surface. Along with the marbled stem and yellowish elongated pores, they made this mushroom very pretty. It does indeed look like it has been painted.

A young thin maze, flat polypore (Daedaleopsis confragosa) might fool you into thinking it was a turkey tail fungus, but one look at its underside would tell you otherwise.

On a turkey tail fungus the underside is full of round pores that look like pin holes, but the lower spore bearing surface of the thin maze polypore is maze like, as its name suggests. Michael Kuo of Mushroom Expert. com says that this mushroom’s appearance is highly variable, with pores sometimes appearing elongated and sometimes rounder. With mushrooms it’s always about increasing the surface area that its spores grow on so it can produce more spores, so I’m guessing this one produces an amazing number of them. These polypores grow on fallen branches and logs.

Usually, if you say the word “polypore” to someone who knows mushrooms they think of a mushroom with pores on the underside of the cap but as we saw with the thin maze flat polypore, they don’t always have pores. In fact, sometimes they have gills, like the rusty gilled polypore (Gloeophyllum sepiarium) seen here. I found them growing on an old timber at work and that made sense, because their job is to decompose dead wood like white pine, which our forests are full of.  It’s a velvety, colorful mushroom that often grows into a lozenge shape like that seen in the above photo.

And here is what the gills on a rusty gilled polypore look like. There are always unexpected surprises in nature.

The velvet footed pax (Tapinella atrotomentosa) is a large bracket type fungus that grows on conifer stumps and logs. Though it is considered to be a bolete it has gills, so it’s easy to get confused when you find it. The most interesting thing about it is how it contains several compounds that repel insects, so it is unlikley that you’ll find any fungus gnats on it. All those insect repellants will also make you sick, so it’s best to let it be. It looked like an animal ran its claws over the cap of this example but I didn’t see any insect damage. The depressed center and rolled rim help with identification, so I think I have this one correct. It matches several examples I’ve seen online.

The real clincher for indentification on the velvet footed pax is its velvet foot. Black to brown velvety hairs cover the base of the stem (stipe.) One of the things that bother me about this one is how the outer rim isn’t rolled under quite as much as I’ve seen on a few other examples.

Pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme) grow in clusters on stumps and logs but I’ve also seen them growing on a rotted part of a living standing tree, and that is never good for the tree. Their common name comes from their kind of upside-down pear shape. As they age pores open in the top of each one so its spores can be released. This one is fairly common but I see it more after it has released its spores than before.

I’ve seen a lot of yellow spindle coral fungi (Clavulinopsis fusiformis) but I’ve never seen them do this. These fungi usually grow in tight clusters often in the hard packed soil on the side of the trail, but I’ve found them on the forest floor as well. I’m not sure why they would have entwined like that.

Surprise webcaps (Cortinarius semisanguineus) appear in early fall under pines, and the pine cone in this photo shows where these grew. They are also called red gilled fibercaps because of the fine fibers that grow on the orangey brown caps.

The semisanguineus part of the scientific name means “half blood-red,” which is a reference to the bright, blood red gill color, and this is what the “surprise” in the common name also refers to. Though my color finding software sees “Indian Red” I think this color would pass.

This group of yellow mushrooms, so tiny I couldn’t see enough features to help in identification, have to take the prize for smallness in this post. The penny shows you just how small they were.  

I think this (parasol) mushroom has to take the prize for simple beauty. I’ve had a bear of a time trying to identify it though, and even though I started trying a month ago, I still don’t know its name. But not knowing a name isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can be a good thing. As Henry David Thoreau said: I begin to see an object when I cease to understand it.

Of course the prize for the most colorful mushroom in any mushroom post has to go to the turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) with their bands of vivid color. Just after the leaves fall but before it snows is the perfect time to find them, and I’ve been seeing a lot of them. I hope you’ll have a chance to see them in person as well.

Nature makes nothing incomplete and nothing in vain. Aristotle

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We burn a lot of wood here in New Hampshire because with 4.8 million acres of forest it is plentiful and usually costs less than oil heat. One of the things I like about burning wood is the handling of it. Cutting, splitting and stacking means you have to handle each piece a few times, and when you do you notice things that you might have never seen while the tree was standing. The following photos are of the various things I found in this woodpile.

Black jelly drop fungi (Bulgaria inquinans) grew on an oak log. They are also called poor man’s licorice but they aren’t edible. They look and feel like black gumdrops, and for some unknown reason are almost always found on oak trees that have been felled and cut up for firewood.

Though they look like jelly fungi black jelly drops are sac fungi. Their fertile, spore bearing surface is shiny and the outside of the cups look like brown velvet. They are sometimes used for dying fabric in blacks, browns, purples and grays.

This is an example of a true jelly fungus, which is little more than a bag of water that inflates to about 60 times its dry size when it rains. If it was dry this amber jelly fungus (Exidia recisa) would be just a dark flake on the tree’s bark.  After absorbing plenty of rainwater this example was about as big as an average adult fingernail. Jelly fungi feel cool to the touch and kind of rubbery, like your ear lobe. Their spores are produced on their shiny surfaces. If you look closely at them you can see that one side is shiny and the other has more of a matte finish. I find these on oak more than other species, but sometimes on poplar and alder as well.

This brown jelly cup fungus (Peziza repanda) looked a little tattered and dirty but it’s a good example of the variety of fungi you can find on cut logs. Though it is called a jelly cup it is a sac fungus and different Peziza species can grow on wood, soil, or dung. This example is a cool weather mushroom that grows on hardwood logs or wood chips, and it is usually seen in spring and fall.  Mushroom expert Michael Kuo says brown cup fungi can be very difficult to identify.

Hairy Stereum (Stereum hirsutsm) is also called the hairy curtain crust fungus. The common name comes from the way these fungi are covered with fine velvety hairs on their upper surface when they’re young. They like to grow on fallen hardwoods and can be found just about any time of year. The color can vary but the wavy edge helps identify them. These examples were very young.

Witch’s butter on a log in a woodpile might alert you to the fact that you’ve got some soft wood mixed in with your hardwood, because this fungus usually grows on hemlock logs. You can burn soft woods like hemlock but they burn faster and don’t heat quite like hardwoods. They can also cause a lot of creosote buildup in a chimney.

Many of the logs shown in the first shot in this post were dragged. It’s a common practice to have to drag cut trees out of a forest to a landing so they can be cut into manageable pieces and loaded onto logging trucks, and when this one was dragged a woodpecker hole became filled with soil. This is a good time to mention that nearly every log shown in this post came from a tree that had something wrong with it. Woodpeckers dig holes in tree trunks to get at insects living in the tree; often carpenter ants. The ants eat the cellulose and weaken the tree, and it isn’t that unusual to find that the tree you’ve cut is completely hollow.

This example was hollowed out either by insects or heart rot cause by a fungus. Mushrooms and other fungi growing on trees is never a good sign. All of this weakens the tree and when a good wind comes along, down they go. Friends of mine just lost their barn to a hundred + year old pine tree that fell and cut the barn right in half. The tree people estimated its weight at 20 tons. That’s 40,000 pounds of wood, and we’re all very thankful that we weren’t anywhere near it when it fell. It was hollow, just like the one in the photo. It was also full of big, black carpenter ants.

This tree had a double whammy. The channels were caused by insects, probably carpenter ants, and then fungal spores got in and revealed themselves when they fruited into these little white mushrooms. It’s possible that the insects in the tree were farming this mushroom and brought parts of it into their channels to feed on. In any event this tree’s life was shortened by quite a few years. It could have stood hollow and lived on for a long time but heaven help anyone who was near it when it finally came down.

A woodpecker made two holes in this oak tree, one above the other, and as the tree tried to heal itself the holes became spoon shaped. It’s another example of what was a standing hollow tree.

Everyone knows that moss grows on trees but what everyone might not know is that many trees like this oak have channels in their bark which direct rainwater down to the tree’s roots. They can be clearly seen in this example, and so can the moss growing right beside and between them. Mosses like a lot of water and when they grow on a tree trunk they get it by growing next to these vertical streams. Do they grow on the north side of trees? Yes, and on the east, west, and south sides too; whichever is more moist.

Lichens are a common sight in woodpiles and beard lichens are very common. Often you can see them growing all up and down the trunks of trees and much like mosses, lichens grow near the channels in the bark so they can get ample moisture. I think this example is a fishbone beard lichen (Usnea filipendula,) so called because of its resemblance to the backbone of a fish. Many people seem to think that lichens will kill a tree but they are simply opportunists looking for all the rain and sunlight they can get and they just perch on trees like birds do. They take nothing from the tree, so if I pulled this one off this log and put it on a living tree it would just grow on as if nothing ever happened as long as it received the right amount of moisture and light. Lichens are virtually indestructible and that’s why some scientists say they are immortal, or as close to immortal as any living thing can be.

I think this is the start of a beautiful crust fungus called the wrinkled crust (Phlebia radiata.) These mushrooms lie flat on the wood they grow on and have no stem, gills or pores. They radiate out from a central point and can be very beautiful. The darker area on this example is where it was wet and the lighter ones where it was dry. They don’t mind cool weather; I usually find them at this time of year and I’m hoping I’ll find a few more.

I’m not a logger or an arborist so I don’t know why this log has such a dark ring just under its bark. I zoomed in on the photo and counted the rings and found that the dark ring started about 12-14 years ago. Something must have happened back then to cause the change, but I can’t guess what it was.

I do know what caused the purple staining in this log; iron, meaning it has foreign objects like screws or nails in it. Sawmills look for this kind of thing when logging trucks bring in a load of logs and they’ll reject the whole load if they see it.

Here’s an example of a foreign object embedded in a tree. In a few more years the tree would have grown over it and it never would have been seen. The only thing that would have given it away was the purple staining when the tree was cat. Nothing will destroy a saw blade or chain quicker than something like this.

If all the stars and planets are aligned perfectly and you pay close attention to your wood pile you could find something as rare and beautiful as this cobalt crust fungus (Terana caerulea) in it. This photo was taken about three years ago and I’ve been looking for this beautiful fungus ever since, but have never seen another one. This is just the time of year for it to appear, so I’ll be watching for it.

The old saying, as I’ve always heard it, says that firewood warms you three times; once when you cut it, once when you stack it, and once when you burn it, and I’d have to say that was just about right. If you dress in layers against the cold you’ll find yourself peeling them off in a hurry once you get to the wood pile. I’ve always looked at cutting and splitting wood as an enjoyable job though, and I hope this post might make the job of getting your woodshed filled just a little more enjoyable too.

The knots in the wood can’t be untied. ~Marty Rubin

Thanks for coming by.

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1. Heath Waxcap

It’s still very dry here but we do get an occasional day of showers. That’s often enough to encourage a few mushrooms, but I haven’t seen anywhere near the numbers that I’ve seen in years past. Right now is just about time for the yellow / red / orange mushrooms to stop fruiting, and for the purple ones start. This orange example wasn’t very big but it was perfectly shaped for a mushroom. I think it might be a heath wax cap (Hygrocybe laeta.)

2. Purple Cort

Young purple cort mushrooms (Cortinarius iodeoides) are very purple but lighten as they age. Squirrels and chipmunks won’t touch this one, possibly because it’s covered with a very bitter slime. This slime often makes the young examples look wet. Slugs don’t have a problem eating it and I often see white trails on the caps where they have eaten through the purple coating to the white flesh below. You can just see that on the left side of this one’s cap.

3. Aging Purple Cort

Purple corts often develop white or yellow streaks as they age and this is a good way to identify them. This example looked positively psychedelic but no, it’ll only make you sick.

4. Yellow Spindle Coral

Yellow spindle coral fungi (Ramariopsis laeticolor) are still coming up. These examples were some of the tallest I’ve seen at around three inches. An increase in height doesn’t seem to change their diameter however; these were still close to the same diameter as a piece of cooked spaghetti. They have the odd habit of growing in the packed earth of trails so I often find that they have been stepped on and broken. I think of these mushrooms as bright but tiny flames coming up out of the soil.

5. Hairy Curtain Crust

I don’t know for sure but I think this hairy orange bracket fungus might be a single example of the hairy curtain crust (Stereum hirsutum.) Their color is said to be very variable and at times significantly different from one to another, so identification can be difficult, even for experienced mushroom hunters.

6. Russell's Bolete

There are many bolete mushrooms that look alike but I think this one is Russell’s bolete (Boletellus russellii) because of the scaly brownish cap and the way that it grew under oak and pine trees. Most boletes have pores rather than gills on the underside of the cap, but there are one or two that have gills. They are sometimes called sponge mushrooms and will often bruise different colors when touched. This one bruises bright yellow; others bruise blue, red, or black.

7. Russell's Bolete

The stem of a Russell’s bolete has deep grooves and angular ridges and looks as if it had been made from the wood of a cholla cactus. The pinkish color is an identifying characteristic.

8. Possible Orange Birch Boletes

These boletes grew right over the entrance to a chipmunk burrow and it looks like it might have tasted the smaller one. Actually I’m not sure if chipmunks eat mushrooms but squirrels sure do, and they start eating them early in the morning before lazy photographers can get going and get a photo of them. I wonder if these examples are orange birch boletes (Leccinum versipelle.)

9. Jelly Babies

To see small things you need to re-train your eyes. (And your mind, somewhat.) Jelly babies (Leotia lubrica) taught me that; one day I sat down on a stone to rest and looked down and there they were. I was surprised by how tiny they were, but they helped me see that forests are full of things just as small and sometimes many times smaller. You need to be ready (and able) to flatten yourself out on the forest floor to get good photos of jelly babies.

10. White Slime Mold

Some of the smallest things that I try to get photos of are slime molds. Though they aren’t classified as fungi they often grow near and sometimes on mushrooms. In nature everything gets eaten; even fungi. I think this slime mold is a coral slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa, variety fruticulosa.)

11. Turkey Tails

I think these turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor) must have been young because they all wore velvet. Though turkey tails are very common I’ve seen only a few over the past two years, and those weren’t as colorful as they sometimes are. I always like finding the blue and purple ones. I might see one blue or purple turkey tail colony for every hundred brown ones.

12. Purple Turkey Tails

The day after I wrote that I hadn’t seen any blue or purple turkey tails (Trametes versicolor,) guess what I found? Some fungi can be every bit as beautiful as flowers and that’s one reason why finding them is so much fun.

13. Banded Polypore

Another common bracket fungus is the red banded polypore (Fomitopsis pinicola.) These are much larger and tougher than turkey tails and like to grow on conifers, especially spruce logs and stumps where they will often grow for many years. This is considered a decay fungus and it causes heart rot, so seeing it on a living tree does not bode well for the tree.

14. Crust Fungus

Wet rot (Coniophora puteana) is a fungus that will grow on wet timbers or other wood structures in houses and seeing it there is never a good sign. It is also called the cellar fungus and likes wood that stays consistently damp. Any time this fungus is seen on the wood of a house that wood will most likely need to be replaced. Luckily this example was growing on a rotting log in a shaded part of the forest.

15. Jack O' Lantern aka Omphalotus illudens

I wouldn’t feel right if I did a mushroom post without adding a reminder that some mushrooms are poisonous, like these examples of what I think are Jack O’ Lanterns (Omphalotus olearius.) Tom Volk of Tom Volk’s Fungi says “They smell very good, and many people have been tempted to eat this fungus — but it’s poisonous. Omphalotus poisoning usually manifests itself as severe cramps, vomiting and diarrhea, all of which can last up to a few days.” That doesn’t sound like a very good way to spend a few days to me, but it illustrates how important accuracy is when it comes to collecting mushrooms for food. If you think you’ve found Jack O’ Lantern mushrooms and are unsure of their identity just look at one in a darkened room; through a process called bioluminescence the gills of Jack O’ Lanterns glow green in the dark.

Take a walk outside – it will serve you far more than pacing around in your mind. ~Rasheed Ogunlaru

Thanks for stopping in.

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