Category: Fungus Fact

Aleuria aurantia 0

#210: Aleuria aurantia, the Orange Peel Fungus

Aleuria aurantia has the common name “Orange Peel Fungus” because it looks like a discarded orange peel resting on the forest floor (I love mycology; more often than not, names make sense!). The Orange Peel Fungus is a cup fungus (see FFF#032) but is a bit more saucer-shaped than cup-shaped; it is roughly circular and usually has upturned edges. Often, the mushrooms become lobed and somewhat folded in on themselves. This really makes them look like orange peels, which also become wavy if the pieces are large enough. A. aurantia is small to medium-sized with the largest mushrooms growing about as wide as a small orange.

Phellinus robiniae 0

#081: Phellinus robiniae, the Cracked Cap Polypore

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.

Cedar-Apple Rust telial horns 0

#087: Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae, Cedar-Apple Rust

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 sectioned 0

#209: Gyromitra caroliniana, Big Red

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.

Gliophorus psittacinus 0

#146: Gliophorus psittacinus, the Parrot Mushroom

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 0

#021: Pleurotus ostreatus, The Oyster Mushroom

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 Leaf Rust, Wheat Stripe Rust, and Wheat Stem Rust 1

#208: Rust Diseases of Wheat

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.

Sphaerobolus ingoldii 0

#122: Sphaerobolus stellatus, the Artillery Fungus

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 1

#070: Ganoderma applanatum, The Artist’s Conk

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.

#207: Ergot Alkaloids 0

#207: Ergot Alkaloids

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...