Phellinus robiniae, commonly known as the “Cracked Cap Polypore,” is a woody bracket fungus that is most easily identified by its habitat. This fungus grows almost exclusively on locust trees. In fact, the fungus is such a common pathogen of locusts that nearly every Black Locust tree has at least one P. robiniae mushroom on it. The mushroom is also distinguished by its furrowed cap – which gives the fungus its common name – and its dull brown pore surface.
Fungus Fact Friday
Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae is a rust fungus known as Cedar-Apple Rust (sometimes abbreviated to CAR) that causes disease in Eastern Red Cedar and in apple trees. This fungus is unique among rusts because it produces large fruiting bodies. On cedar trees, the fruiting bodies resemble lumpy brown golf balls with long gelatinous orange tentacles bursting out of them. On apple trees, the disease causes more damage but produces only orangish spots. The complex life cycle of Cedar-Apple Rust means the fungus is easy to control, although these control methods resulted in a legal case that was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States!
Gyromitra caroliniana, variously called the “Red False Morel,” “Carolina False Morel,” or – my personal favorite – “Big Red,” is a false morel (see FFF#034) that can grow to astounding sizes. It has a reddish-brown cap that is tightly wrinkled, making it look very similar to true morels (see FFF#033). The easiest way to differentiate Big Red from true morels is to cut it in half; true morels have a central hollow chamber while false morels like Big Red are solid or have lots of small chambers. Big Red gets its common name from its cap color and the fact that it routinely produces mushrooms that weigh over three pounds.
In October of 2016, I stepped out into my back yard and found it carpeted with medium-sized brown mushrooms. Apparently, I had nothing better to do that day than attempt to identify these boring nondescript mushrooms, so I sat down with a field guide and managed to key them out to Inocybe rimosa. This was a surprising result; most of the boring brown mushrooms that pop up in yards are saprobic, but Inocybe is a mycorrhizal genus. Since I. rimosa is mycorrhizal, there is only a very limited area in my yard that it can grow. This made me wonder, “Will it grow in the same place next year?” There was only one way to answer that question: keep track of where mushrooms appear in my yard. I logged all 227 I. rimosa mushrooms and waited eagerly for 2017, when I would map all the mycorrhizal mushrooms that appeared.
This is a beautiful little waxcap that displays one of the most striking color changes of all mushrooms. Gliophorus psittacinus is easily identified by its slimy texture and bright green color that becomes yellow as the mushroom matures. Because the color fades, older specimens are easily confused with the many other yellowish waxcaps. For easy identification of this mushroom, you really need to find young specimens that are still green and slimy. As with other waxcaps, the flesh has a texture reminiscent of candle wax. However, you’re more likely to notice the substantial slimy coating over the cap and stalk, which obscures the texture of the thin flesh. Because of its initial bright green color (which one might term “parrot green”), G. psittacinus is commonly called the “Parrot Mushroom” or “Parrot Waxcap.” Indeed, the root word in its specific epithet means ‘parrot’ in both Latin and Greek.
Pleurotus ostreatus, the “Oyster Mushroom,” is the quintessential pleurotoid mushroom: it is a gilled mushroom with a very short stalk that fruits from the sides of logs. Oyster Mushrooms are some of the best edible wild mushrooms; they are fairly easy to identify, they are meaty, and they appear in large numbers. Additionally, you find them in late fall and winter, when the woods are otherwise boring places for mushroom hunters. Although it grows on hardwood logs in nature, P. ostreatus will decompose pretty much any plant material, which makes it very easy to cultivate. As an added bonus, the Oyster Mushroom attacks nematodes. That’s one cool mushroom, right?
Wheat is the most widely grown crop in the world and is a staple food for billions of people. Diseases affecting wheat are therefore of utmost importance to food security. Some of the most destructive and difficult wheat diseases are the rusts. Wheat rust comes in three varieties: Leaf Rust, Stem Rust, and Stripe Rust, each caused by a different species of fungus. These all look slightly different but all cause rust-colored blemishes on wheat surfaces. The three species are closely related and have nearly identical life cycles. Despite this, managing the diseases is complicated and requires using resistant wheat strains, proper cultural practices, and fungicides.
Fungi appear in the news with surprising frequency. However, many of those stories do not provide any new information. Below is a summary of what we’ve learned about fungi from November 2017 through Early February 2018. Read below to learn about: zombie ants, aflatoxin control, white nose syndrome solutions, using fungi in concrete, and more! Visit the associated links to get the full story.
Sphaerobolus stellatus has one of the most unusual spore dispersal mechanisms: its base pops up and quickly flings a glob of spores into the air. The fungus forms tiny (no more than 3mm across) star-shaped mushrooms in mulch, which can cause problems for homeowners when the spore globs glue themselves to cars, siding, and the like. S. stellatus’s unique spore dispersal strategy has resulted in a variety of common names, including: “Artillery Fungus,” “Cannonball Fungus,” “Cannon Fungus,” “Sphere Thrower” (which is a literal translation of its Latin name), and “Shotgun Fungus.”
Ganoderma applanatum is unique among fungi in that it is primarily used by humans as an artistic medium. This large, woody bracket fungus features a mostly flat white pore surface that immediately stains brown when handled. Because of this, the mushroom readily becomes a natural canvas for an artist. By lightly scratching the pore surface, an artist can produce beautiful sketches without using a pen, pencil, or paint. The pores stop growing once the mushroom is removed from its substrate, so the stains remain on the pore surface. Conks produced by G. applanatum are woody and therefore decay very slowly. As a result, artwork produced on the Artist’s Conk can last for many years when dried and kept indoors.
Ergot Alkaloids (EAs) belong to a large class of mycotoxins. They are primarily produced by fungi in the genera Claviceps and Epichloë, although Claviceps purpurea is responsible for most of the impacts on humans. EAs are most common in rye, but can be found in any cereal grain. The toxins were a significant problem in the middle ages, but modern agricultural techniques mean that exposure to enough EAs to cause symptoms is extremely rare.1,2 Sources Many fungi produce ergot alkaloids in many different plant hosts. Humans are impacted most by species of Claviceps, which infect seeds of grasses. The most problematic species is C. purpurea (see FFF#061), which infects rye. A variety of other species infect cereal grains but cause less contamination. Livestock can be sickened by infected grain or by ergot alkaloids produced by endophytes in pasture grasses, most notably by Epichloë coenophiala.1–3 This post focuses on Claviceps and...