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.

#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.

#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...

#015: Characteristics of Phylum Glomeromycota [Archived] 1

#015: Characteristics of Phylum Glomeromycota [Archived]

Note: This is an archived post. You can find the current version of this post here. The Glomeromycota are all fungi which form arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM). Mycorrhizae are a type of mutualism with plants where the fungus gets sugars and gives up hard-to-extract nutrients (especially phosphorous).  AM fungi accomplish this by forming structures within the plant’s root cells while not causing a disease reaction.  Most land plant species form AM, and only a few families are considered non-mycorrhizal.  AM fungi tend to be generalists, colonizing a variety of different plant species.  Each plant is usually colonized by multiple AM species.  This mycorrhizal network has a variety of different roles in an ecosystem.  It supplies nutrients to plants, determines what species make up an ecosystem’s plant community, and allows other plants (like orchids and Indian pipe) to parasitize larger plants via the network.  A recent study has also suggested that plants...

#013: Characteristics of Phylum Basidiomycota [Archived] 18

#013: Characteristics of Phylum Basidiomycota [Archived]

Note: This is an archived post. You can find the current version of this post here. Phylum Basidiomycota accounts for about 35% of all described fungal species.* This phylum contains the fungi that people are most familiar with. The classic “Mario mushroom” (based on Amanita muscaria), the grocery store button mushroom and other varieties of Agaricus bisporus, shiitakes, oyster mushrooms, and even the major “magic mushrooms” are all basidiomycetes.  However, basidiomycota also includes rusts and smuts, which are economically important plant pathogens, some yeasts, and a few lichenized fungi.  Like the ascomycota, the basidiomycota fill a variety of different ecological roles.  Many form mycorrhizae with plants (amanitas, chanterelles, russulas, etc.), others parasitize plants (rusts, smuts, honey mushrooms, etc.), a lot decompose organic material (cultivated mushrooms, yeasts, etc.), and some live in a variety of symbioses with insects (this includes some interesting mutualisms with leaf cutter ants and termites).

#007: <em>Omphalotus illudens</em>, the Jack-O-Lantern Mushroom [Archived] 4

#007: Omphalotus illudens, the Jack-O-Lantern Mushroom [Archived]

Note: this is an archived post. You can read the current version of this post here. Fungus Fact Friday #007: Spotlight on Omphalotus illudens, the “Jack-O-Lantern mushroom”. If the spirit of Halloween were a mushroom, it would be O. illudens.  This mushroom is commonly known as the “Jack-O-Lantern mushroom” for a couple of good reasons.  First, it is bright orange, like the pumpkins that decorate doorsteps all over the United States in October.  Not only is the cap orange, but so are the gills, the stipe, and the interior.  Second, the mushroom’s gills glow in the dark, especially when the mushrooms are young and fresh.  There are stories of this glow being bright enough to use a clump of mushrooms as a torch.  Again, this is reminiscent of the jack-o-lanterns carved out for Halloween.  Furthermore, the mushroom often has a sweet smell and is poisonous.  Nothing says Halloween like something...

#005: <em>Xylaria polymorpha</em>, Dead Man’s Fingers [Archived] 2

#005: Xylaria polymorpha, Dead Man’s Fingers [Archived]

Note: this is an archived post. You can read the updated version here. October is Creepy Fungus Month on Fungus Fact Friday! To start this month I have chosen to highlight Xylaria polymorpha–Dead Man’s Fingers. When you look at this fungus’ fruiting bodies in the summer or fall it is easy to see how it got its common name.  The mushrooms are more or less straight, though often bent or warped.  Their exterior is black, wrinkled, and bumpy and becomes cracked with age.  The individual mushrooms often grow close together and may become fused at the bottom, forming a “hand” with several “fingers.”  X. polymorpha is a wood decomposer, but can often appear to grow from the ground when decomposing buried wood.  Thus, this mushroom often resembles a burnt, dead hand reaching out of the ground to grab unwitting passers-by and drag them down into the depths of the earth. ...