My Saturday hike at Flag Ponds was fungally fruitful.
(Get the awesome pun?? Because mushrooms and other visible fungi are the fruiting parts of the main body, or mycelium, of the fungus. My family says my mom-jokes are even worse when I explain them, whereas I think they’ve got real pun-tential.)
My mushroom identification skills, however, still leave much to be desired. There are at least 10,000 different species of mushrooms/fungi in North America. I can reliably identify about five. And that’s just not going to cut it on an average hike.
The stakes are even higher for mushroom foragers who intend to eat what they find. A misidentified mushroom in your stomach could mean a trip to the emergency room.
When trying to identify a mushroom, amateur mycologists must note myriad details, beginning with:
- The shape, texture, moisture level, and color of the cap (pileus),
- The shape and color of the stalk and whether or not it has a “veil”,
- Whether the underside of the cap (where the spores come from) is smooth or has gills, tubes, or teeth, and
- What kind of spore print the cap makes.
I took no caps home to make spore prints. Knowing that the visible mushroom is only the fruiting body of the larger mycelium, I didn’t mind plucking a few to get a better look at, and photo of, their underside – I figure this is no worse than picking a flower or leaf – but I draw the line at taking home pieces of nature from a nature park. I couldn’t do it.
So, here are the mushrooms I found and the rudimentary identifications that I was able to make with the help of my National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms and the wonderful MycoKey Fungus Identifier website. Click on the photos to read the full captions.
A very standard, mushroomy-looking mushroom. Both cap and stalk are smooth and shades of caramel brown. I found it on one side of a rotting stump.
The underside of the mushroom reveals buff colored gills hidden under the edge of a rolled cap. Though the picture makes the stalk seem white, that’s just where I ripped it; you can see in the other picture that the stalk is also light brown.
This group of more delicate mushrooms was found on the other side of the same stump. Their caps are about 1.5 inches wide, umbrella-shape, beige with hazelnut centers and rims.
One extracted and flipped over shows mink-brown gills (darker than the cap) and a thin, white stalk.
I cannot identify either for sure. Seriously, I got nuthin’.
A slender tree has fallen across the North Ridge trail and brought a bounty of mushrooms with it. When the tree stood, these surfaces were the tops/caps of the mushroom. Could this be a parchment family mushroom, aged to a silvery white instead of more brightly colored?
The same tree from the opposite direction, showing the toothy, brown fertile surfaces of the same mushrooms. But I can’t find a parchment mushroom that’s toothy underneath! I should have taken off my gloves and felt the top and bottom surfaces.
Maybe in the parchment fungus family? I so badly need a fungus friend to guide me.
Finally, one I know! This bright yellow, delicate, slimy beauty is witches’ butter. It is edible, but used in soups rather than to butter bread.
My best guess is violet toothed polypore.
But of course the teeth aren’t violet on the one I flipped over.
Here’s the photo of pear shaped puffballs I shared from last week’s hike.
This week, I broke one open to reveal the pistachio green, maturing spore body whose presence confirms my earlier identification. Small happy dance in salute to ME!
Just enough success to keep me going!
Check out this convoluted beauty! It sure looks like a Bladder Cup. . . only it’s not yellow. And it’s not growing on manure.
The mushroom gods are, for sure, laughing at me now.
Tiny, white, furry semi circles growing on a fallen hardwood branch.
The underside of the mushroom shown at left. It’s a Common Split Gill! The photograph in my Audubon guide practically jumped off the page at me.
Getting lucky with commoners.
So, I may not be able to identify them to genus and species, but I’ve observed enough to know that there are at least four different fungi in this square foot of rotting log: the delicate, dark brown mushroom sticking up just above center, the Clinker polypore coating the wood in a dark brown/black char, the false-turkey-tail-or-possibly-other-parchment-fungus in the upper right quadrant, and the three cute cup fungi lined up on the center right.
If you, too, are prone to fungus fails, take heart in the following quote:
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness.” – Oprah Winfrey
I think I’ll go adjust my crown and forage for a few more fungus websites.