Category: Archived

#143: <em>Boletinellus merulioides</em>, the Ash Tree Bolete [Archived] 0

#143: Boletinellus merulioides, the Ash Tree Bolete [Archived]

Note: This is an archived post. You can find the current version of this post here. Boletinellus merulioides is an odd mushroom, both in appearance and ecology. The Ash Tree Bolete can be readily identified by its pore surface – which is only a few millimeters thick and looks more like a network of ridges – and by the fact that it fruits only under ash trees.  merulioides appears under ash because it has a unique symbiotic relationship with a pest of ash trees: the Leafcurl Ash Aphid.

#122: <em>Sphaerobolus stellatus</em>, the Artillery Fungus 2

#122: Sphaerobolus stellatus, the Artillery Fungus

Note: this is an archived post. You can read the current version of this post here. Happy New Year! To celebrate, I decided to use some fungal cannon fire to start 2016 off with a bang!  Although it is tiny, Sphaerobolus stellatus gets just about as close as a fungus can to actually being a firework.  The tiny, star-shaped fruiting bodies are designed to launch a spherical sac of spores high into the air.  This 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), “Shotgun Fungus,” “Shooting Star,” and “Bombardier Fungus.”

#119: <em>Pisolithus arrhizus</em>, the Dyeball [Archived] 1

#119: Pisolithus arrhizus, the Dyeball [Archived]

Note: This is an archived post. You can find the current version of this post here. “Our next contestant in the Ugly Mushroom contest performs thousands of hours of community service every year and is an accomplished artist. Its goal in life is to make the world a better place and form lasting relationships with those around it.  Give it up for…Pisolithus arrhizus! [applause]”  There seems to be little doubt among people that arrhizus is one of the ugliest mushrooms in the world.  The fruiting bodies of older specimens become distorted and can be mistaken for anything from animal poop to decomposing tree stumps.  Despite its unsightly appearance, this earthball can be used to dye wool, thus earning it the common name, “Dyeball.”  The fungus is also prized by gardeners and foresters for its ability to form robust mycorrhizae in extremely poor soil conditions.

#070: <em>Ganoderma applanatum</em>, The Artist’s Conk [Archived] 2

#070: Ganoderma applanatum, The Artist’s Conk [Archived]

Note: this is an archived post. You can find the current version here. 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 flat, rapidly-staining, white pore surface, which 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 applanatum are woody and therefore decay very slowly.  As a result, artwork produced on the Artist’s Conk can last for many years when kept indoors.

#069: <em>Amanita muscaria</em>, Part 1: The Type Mushroom 6

#069: Amanita muscaria, Part 1: The Type Mushroom

Note: This is an archived post. You can find the current version of this post here. You are undoubtedly familiar with this mushroom, even if you recognize neither its scientific name, Amanita muscaria, nor its common name, “The Fly Agaric.” If the word “mushroom” does not immediately bring this fungus to mind, then the word “toadstool” probably does.  You have certainly encountered Amanita muscaria’s distinctive red cap with white spots in a wide variety of visual art forms.  This toadstool frequently pops up in paintings, cartoons, video games, movies, and decorations.  It is because of the artistic over-use of the Fly Agaric that I referred to it above as “The Type Mushroom.”   When describing a new taxonomic division or species of fungi, mycologists collect a “type specimen” which best exemplifies the characteristics of that taxon.  This ensures that future mycologists know exactly what the original author intended to include in...

#065: <em>Trametes versicolor</em>, the Turkey Tail [Archived] 3

#065: Trametes versicolor, the Turkey Tail [Archived]

Note: This is an archived post. Read the current version of this post here. It is easy to see how this mushroom got its common name: the upper surface of the fan-shaped fruiting body sports rings of color that vary from gray to brown to reddish orange. In fresh specimens, the edge of the mushroom is white, making it look remarkably like the displayed tail of a wild turkey.

#059: <em>Tremella mesenterica</em>, Witch’s Butter [Archived] 1

#059: Tremella mesenterica, Witch’s Butter [Archived]

Note: This is an archived post. You can find the current version of this post here. Legend has it that witches use this fungus to cast hexes. When this fungus appears on your gate or door, you have certainly been the victim of a witch’s evil spell.  The only way to counter the hex is to pierce the fungus with straight pins, allowing the inner juices to drain and thus killing the fungus and the spell.  Unfortunately for those who believe this superstition, this method probably doesn’t work too well for two reasons.  First, the mushroom is specifically designed to survive repeated dehydration and rehydration.  Second, the main body of the fungus is still living inside the wood.  Unless you replace the wood you will probably find the mushroom repeatedly fruiting from the same place.

#057: The Witch’s Hat, <em>Hygrocybe conica</em> [Archived] 1

#057: The Witch’s Hat, Hygrocybe conica [Archived]

Note: This is an archived post. You can find the current version of this post here. Welcome back to creepy fungus month!  I’m starting off this month with a mushroom that has a creepy name but is always fun to find: The Witch’s Hat.  Hygrocybe conica gets its common name from the conic shape of its cap, its orange to red color, and its proclivity for bruising black.  The Witch’s Hat is a small mushroom whose cap is 1 to 4cm across (rarely up to 6cm) and whose stipe is 3 to 8cm tall.  Young specimens of this mushroom truly are beautiful.  The bright, red to orange cap nicely compliments the lighter, orange to yellow stipe.  When young, the cap is conical with a curved top and edges that curve slightly inward.  The cap opens up as the mushroom matures to become broadly conical to convex, although it retains a...

#049: Coffee Rust [Archived] 1

#049: Coffee Rust [Archived]

Note: This is an archived post. You can find the current version of this post here. Coffee Rust (la roya in Spanish) is a disease of coffee plants that is caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix. If you enjoy a fine cup of coffee, then this is one fungus you should be very interested in.  The Coffee Rust is currently ravaging coffee trees in Central America, where 60% to 75% of the region’s crops are infected with the pathogen.  The result of this has been a 15% drop in Central America’s coffee output and a corresponding loss of more than 100,000 jobs over the last two years.  The high-end Arabica trees are particularly susceptible to the disease.  America’s major coffee producers have been able to find enough coffee to meet demand without a noticeable impact on price*, but smaller, specialty brewers are having a harder time.  And we haven’t seen...

#027: Mushroom Morphology: Gilled Mushrooms (“Agarics”) [Archived] 4

#027: Mushroom Morphology: Gilled Mushrooms (“Agarics”) [Archived]

Note: This is an archived post. You can find the current version of this post here. The gilled mushrooms, informally referred to as “agarics,” are the type of mushroom with which we are most familiar. The most common edible mushrooms (white/button/portabella mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms) are all gilled mushrooms.  Amanita muscaria, the most recognizable mushroom in the world and the inspiration for Mario-style mushroom art, and the “magic mushrooms” are also gilled mushrooms.  What all of these mushrooms have in common is a hymenium (spore-bearing surface) that is separate from the sterile, upper part of the fruiting body (the cap/pileus) and that forms “gills.”  Gills (known to mycologists as “lamellae”) are plates of spore-producing tissue that form perpendicular to the pileus and radiate out from a single point.  The shape of these plates of tissue is reminiscent of fish gills, resulting in the term “gills.”  This morphology has...