If the spirit of Halloween were a mushroom, it would be Omphalotus illudens. This agaric is commonly known as the “Jack-O-Lantern mushroom” for a few 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 they are young and fresh. Furthermore, the mushroom often has a sweet smell and is poisonous. Nothing says Halloween like something that is orange, glows in the dark, smells sweet, and has a sinister side.
agaric mushrooms with pale spores that don’t fit elsewhere
Armillaria tabescens, the “Ringless Honey Mushroom,” is out in force in my area, a sure sign that summer is drawing to a close. Field guides often note that A. tabescens is the easiest honey mushroom to identify. That is true, but it relies on you accurately identifying it as a honey mushroom. Honey mushrooms (Armillaria spp.) are typically medium-sized to large agarics that grow in dense clusters, have a partial veil that leaves a ring, produce thick black rhizomorphs, and fruit from dead or dying wood. Of those features, the only one A. tabescens displays reliably is dense clustered growth. This makes it very difficult to identify if you’re unfamiliar with honey mushrooms. Fortunately, there are not many large mushrooms that grow in dense clusters, so it’s always worth checking the Armillaria section of your field guide when you find some.
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca is a bright orange mushroom that appears on rotting wood and forest debris in the summer and fall. It is not a particularly interesting mushroom on its own, but it is worth knowing to make sure you don’t confuse it with other orange mushrooms like golden chanterelles. H. aurantiaca is called the “False Chanterelle” precisely for that reason; if you’re not paying attention, it would be easy to drop one of these into your chanterelle collection.
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), Amanita muscaria – the most recognizable mushroom in the world and the inspiration for almost all mushroom art – and the ‘magic mushrooms’ are all gilled mushrooms. All these mushrooms share one feature: vertical plates of spore-producing tissue stacked under a sterile cap.
Clitocybe odora is easily recognized by its pale blue-green color and its distinctive anise-like odor. The mushroom is edible, but not very many people go looking for it. C. odora is sometimes called the “Aniseed Funnel” or “Blue-Green Clitocybe,” but most people refer to it by its scientific name.
This is one of the strangest mushrooms on Earth. It is a gilled mushroom that parasitizes other mushrooms, which already makes it a rarity. Even less common, Asterophora lycoperdoides reproduces primarily through asexual “” This mushroom is commonly known as the “Star-Bearing Powder Cap” or the “Powdery Piggyback.” The former name is more common in the United States, while the latter is primarily used in the United Kingdom.
Witches might not be real, but witches’ brooms certainly are – and they’re destroying chocolate! Yes, Halloween’s favorite treat (chocolate) is suffering at the hands of a disease with a Halloween-themed name: Witches’ Broom Disease. Witches’ brooms are actually fairly common and occur on many different plants. In chocolate trees (Cacao trees, Theobroma cacao, whose genus name literally means “food of the gods”), witches’ brooms are caused by the fungal pathogen Moniliophthora perniciosa and have an enormous economic impact on chocolate production in Central and South America.
This edible mushroom can be found in specialty markets under the names “Enokitake” and “” It can also be found in the wild in temperate areas across the Northern Hemisphere, but the wild mushrooms look nothing like the cultivated versions. Flammulina velutipes has many common names, including: Velvet Foot, Enokitake, Enoki, Winter Mushroom, Velvet Stem, Velvet Shank, Golden Needle Mushroom, and others. I am using the name Velvet Foot because it is among the most commonly used names and it sounds the most poetic. According to Wikipedia, Enoki is the Japanese name for the Chinese Hackberry Tree, a tree in the hemp family on which F. velutipes is often found. Thus, “Enokitake” means “Chinese Hackberry Tree Mushroom.” Wikipedia also says that the Chinese names for this mushroom translate to Golden Needle Mushroom or Golden Mushroom. How can one mushroom have such a wide variety of common names? In this case,...
Welcome to Fungus Fact Friday! To start off this exciting new series I have chosen a simple yet amazing fungus fact: the largest known living, single organism on the planet is a fungus; Armillaria ostoyae to be specific! The Armillaria genus contains good edibles and includes species commonly known as “honey mushrooms” or “shoestring fungi.” The second name comes from the thick, black rhizomorphs that connect various areas of the fungus together. These rhizomorphs form under the bark of trees that the fungus attacks parasitically and extend through the soil from tree to tree. This infection causes the trees to die back, which makes the 2,385 acre area the fungus has colonized visible from the air. DNA tests taken from ostoyae samples all around the infected area showed that this was one individual (for the moment I have put aside the “what is an individual?” debate, a very confusing subject...