Fungus Fact Friday

Buglossoporus quercinus 4

#229: Buglossoporus quercinus

Buglossoporus quercinus is an interesting polypore that most of you probably haven’t seen before.  I’ve seen it only once, myself, brought in at a mushroom club meeting.  It reminds me of a yellow version of Ischnoderma resinosum.  B. quercinus forms brackets that are fuzzy yellow on top with a white pore surface below.  All parts of the mushroom stain brown when handled.  The coloration and staining make it a unique mushroom.  The Global Fungal Red List Initiative lists B. quercinus as “vulnerable” because it is rarely found and grows on only old oak trees – a habitat that is in decline across Europe.  Although B. quercinus is primarily known from Europe, it was recently discovered growing in eastern North America.

Elm Bark Beetle galleries 0

#228: Dutch Elm Disease

Elm trees were once the defining tree of American life, widely planted in cities, suburbs, and farms.  This changed beginning in the early 1900’s when Dutch Elm Disease arrived on the continent.  Caused by the fungi Ophiostoma ulmi and O. novo-ulmi, Dutch Elm Disease blocks off the water transportation tissues in elm trees, leading to wilting and death.  The fungus moves between trees by using elm bark beetles as vectors and by growing from tree to tree, making it a difficult pathogen to control.  The best way to manage Dutch Elm Disease today is by planting resistant cultivars – fortunately, there are many resistant options available.


#227: Polyporus umbellatus, the Umbrella Polypore

I have never found Polyporus umbellatus, but apparently I’m not alone.  This mushroom has a wide range that covers the whole northern hemisphere but the mushrooms are still uncommon.  Known as the “Umbrella Polypore,” P. umbellatus forms rosettes on the ground under hardwood trees.  The central stalk branches repeatedly and each branch ends in a circular umbrella-like cap (hence its common name).  Umbrella Polypores appear in the spring just after morel season and sometimes reappear in the fall.  The fungus is a weak parasite and can feed on its host trees for decades, so after you find one once, you know where to find some next year!  The mushroom is considered edible and medicinal, although different parts are used for each purpose.1–4 Description The Umbrella Polypore looks something like a bouquet of tiny umbrellas stuck in the ground.  The whole rosette grows <span class=”term”>10-50cm</span> across, although each individual cap grows...

Morchella angusticeps 0

#140: Morchella angusticeps, the Black Morel of Eastern North America

Black morels can be distinguished from yellow morels by their dark ridges and light pits. Other morels have light ridges with darker (or only slightly darker) pits.  Morchella angusticeps is the most widespread black morel in North America.  It can be found almost anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains, although it is not as common as yellow morels (see FFF#086 and FFF#226).  There are a handful of black morel species, but you can easily identify M. angusticeps because it is the only one in eastern North America that does not grow in burn sites or on wood.


#226: Tulip Morels

Eastern North America has two general forms of yellow morels: large and small.  Large morels (see FFF#086) typically grow up to 22cm when fully grown, whereas the smaller versions grow up to only 12.5cm tall.  But size isn’t the only difference; the smaller yellow morels tend to be thinner in relation to their height and have long vertical pits.  The larger morels typically look stouter and have more random pits.  Small morels are commonly known as “Tulip Morels” because of their association with tulip trees.  Tulip morels comprise two species that are nearly indistinguishable: Morchella diminutiva and M. sceptriformis.

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2018 Fall and Winter Fungal News Update

Fungi appear in the news with surprising frequency. However, many of those stories do not provide any new information. Below is a summary of news stories that have taught me something about fungi from September through December 2018. Read each summary to learn about: zombie ants, mushroom poisonings, White Nose Syndrome, Bananas, and more.


#225: Radulodon copelandii, The Asian Beauty

Have you seen Radulodon copelandii?  If you live in the Boston, New York, Pittsburg, or Washington DC areas, you probably have.  If you live elsewhere on the East Coast of North America, get ready to.  R. copelandii is a distinctive fungus that produces a mat of whitish teeth along the surface of recently dead broadleaf trees, usually oaks.  The mushroom recently arrived on the continent from Asia, which gives the mushroom its common name, “Asian Beauty.”  The Japanese names for the mushroom are “Sagari haritaki” and “hanging needle mushroom.”  R. copelandii is currently spreading in eastern North America and is quickly becoming one of the most common mushrooms within its range.  This is concerning, so the species warrants further study and monitoring – hopefully by people like you!


#085: Schizophyllum commune, The Mushroom with Over 28,000 Sexes

If you think dating is complicated in the human world, be glad you’re not Schizophyllum commune.  Humans have two basic biological sexes and six or more gender identities to deal with, but S. commune has to choose from over 28,000 different sexes!  This overly complex system is based on genetics and the weird way fungi reproduce.  But this isn’t just a weird example, it’s also one of the most common mushrooms in the world.  You can probably find the mushroom out now, and identify it easily.  The little white mushroom is easily distinguished by its small gills, which appear to be split lengthwise.  This unique feature has led to its common name, the “Split Gill” or sometimes “Common Split Gill.”


#124: Galerina marginata, the Deadly Galerina

If you are collecting for the table, this is one little brown mushroom (LBM) that you should definitely know. Most LBMs go unnoticed because they are heard to spot and are usually too small to consider worth eating.  The “Deadly Galerina” is therefore usually not dangerous on its own.  The real danger from this mushroom comes when it is accidentally collected along with a group of edible mushrooms.  Galerina marginata contains amatoxins, which are also found in such infamous species as the Destroying Angels (Amanita virosa complex, FFF#050) and Death Caps (Amanita phalloides, FFF#051).  In England, G. marginata goes by the beautifully ominous name, “Funeral Bell.”  Unfortunately for me, people in the United States prefer the much blander common name, “Deadly Galerina.”


#224: Pythium insidiosum, Pythiosis

It’s a new year and already a fungus-like disease is making national headlines.  Four wild ponies on Chincoteague were euthanized due to a disease called “Swamp Cancer” on December 28, 2018, bringing the total Chincoteague ponies killed by the disease in 2018 up to seven.  Swamp Cancer is not a cancer at all; the disease is caused by the oomycete Pythium insidiosum.  If you have a pet you may have heard of this disease before: P. insidiosum occasionally infects dogs and cats, often killing its hosts.  Rarely, P. insidiosum causes disease in humans.  P. insidiosum normally decays plant matter in flooded tropical to sub-tropical environments, so it is most often contracted in warm stagnant water.  Because it reproduces only in those environments, P. insidiosum cannot spread from one animal to another.