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.
fungi in the phylum Basidiomycota
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!
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.
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.
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 A. muscaria’s distinctive red cap with white spots in a variety of visual art forms. This toadstool frequently pops up in paintings, cartoons, video games, movies, and decorations. Essentially, A. muscaria is the default mushroom that people (in Western societies, anyway) think of when they hear the word “mushroom” – the type specimen for mushrooms, if you will. This is probably best illustrated by the Wikipedia page for “Mushroom,” which features a prominent picture of the photogenic Fly Agaric. Morphology Amanita muscaria produces large, umbrella-shaped agaric mushrooms with a circular, brightly colored pileus and a central, white stipe. The pileus ranges in size from...
In honor of the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I chose to rework this post on the Turkey Tail. I will continue discussing mycotoxins next week. It is easy to see why Trametes versicolor is commonly called the “Turkey Tail”: the upper surface of the fan-shaped polypore 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. T. versicolor is a very common decomposer and produces mushrooms that are visible all year, so you can probably find it the next time you walk through the woods.