Sunday, December 26, 2010

A corloful mushroom

It is not everyday that one encounters bright colored mushrooms. Indeed, most mushrooms I find are wheat-colored, gray, brown, white or other dull color. Therefore, a bright yellow, blue, purple or red thing in the forest is always a cool find and it always makes me think of the utility of color for fungi. From what I understand, a common explanation is that bright colors are used as a warning for predators (although this mushroom is not poisonous). I am not sure this explanation is applicable to macrofungi but I would love to know ;-). Whatever is the cause, this bright lemony-yellow solitary mushroom was popping out of the dry leaves about a month ago and, although I planned to write about it, for a long time I couldn't find a good time to do it.

So here it goes.

Date: 11/13/2010
Location: Scott's Run Nature Preserve, VA
Habitat: Solitary, growing on the ground, over dead leaves

Pileus diameter - 24 mm
Pileus height - 7-8 mm
Stipe length - 42.5 mm
Stipe diameter at apex - 7.5 x 3.0 mm
Stipe diameter at middle - 7.0 x 3.0 mm
Stipe diameter at base - 5.7 x 3.0 mm

Pileus - Convex, smooth, yellow-orange, shiny when fresh and dull after 1 hour, flesh is thin, yellow, cuticle is glabrous, odor is mild and non-distinctive, taste is mild and non-distinctive
Hymenium - Gilled, gills are adnexed, well spaced, pale yellow, undulated
Stipe - Central, equal, hollow, compressed, splitting, yellow-orange, surface is smooth, glabrous
Spore print - not obtained

This is a specimen of Hygrocybe flavescens. The lemon-yellow color and compressed, splitting stipe are quite characteristic, making the identification very easy.

Roody, W.C. Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians. Pg 175.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Deadly Galerina

Galerina autumnalis
This mushroom is one that I believe it is worth knowing well, specially when one considers its toxicity and the deadly consequences of mistaking it for other mushrooms. Indeed, any amateur mycologist worth its salt should be capable of identifying at least this mushroom and a couple deadly Amanitas, as for instance the Death Cap (A. phalloides) and the Destroying Angel (A. ocreata, A. virosa and A. bisporigera)

The Deadly Galerina (Galerina autumnalis or Galerina marginata (Batsch) K├╝hner)  is a good example of why mushrooms picking (specially for the table) should be done with great respect. In spite of its small size, a single Galerina can kill an adult (or more). This little fungi contains a deadly toxin (alpha-amanitin) which is highly toxic to the liver and that can also affect kidneys and the brain. Reports of poisoning by G. autumnalis have been made since the beggining of the last century (Peck, 1912). Death occur around 5 days post ingestion if heroic measures (i.e. liver transplant) are not taken and those that survive have increased incidence of liver cancer. Although its identification is quite easy, once could possibly mistake it Psilocybe specie or for honey mushrooms.  Most often Galerinas are found growing on dead/rotten wood.
Note the white mycelium at the base.

Being a gregarious mushroom, one can always find multiple specimens on the same log and it's innocent appearance may even tempt some to taste it (please, don't!). To complicate things a bit, quite often Galerinas grow side by side with Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria gallica). For an example see Tom Volks website, where he has a cool photo showing both mushrooms growing on the same log.
Ring on the upper par of the stipe.
Galerinas are quite easy to identify. They are small (2.5-8 cm of length) wheat colored (Roody calls it yellow-brown to orange-brown). with a hemispheric to convex pileus (cap), which is viscid when moist, smooth and glabrous (bald). The hymenium has close, adnate (attached) gills that are more or less the same color as the cap cuticle. They have a central stipe (stem) that is equal (same diameter from bottom to top) and hollow. The stipe usually has a white ring on its upper part, that often is colored brown due to the falling spores. The stem has longitudinal lines (fibrillose streaking), which are dark brown, and it tends to be lighter at the top than at the base. Last, frequently the stipe is attached to decaying wood by a cottony white mycelium. If you happen to obtain a spore print, the color should be rusty brown.

Notes on this specimen
Date: 11/13/2010
Location: Scott's Run Nature Preserve, McLean, VA
Habitat: Gregarious, growing on rotten wood

Pileus diameter: 17.3 mm
Pileus height: 8.3 mm
Stipe length: 40.5 mm
Stipe diameter at base: 3.0 mm
Stipe diameter at middle: 2.7 mm
Stipe diameter at apex: 2.7 mm

Pileus: Convex, round, smooth, glabrous, yellow-brown, margin is dark brown, entire. Smell is non-distinctive.
Hymenium: Gills are adnate, pale brown.
Stipe: Central, equal, hollow, smooth with longitudinal streaking, light brown at top and dark brown at base, white mycelium at the point of attachment, brown ring on upper part of the stipe (10 mm from the pileus).
Spore print: Not obtained

References: Roody WC. Mushrooms of West Virginia and Central Appalachians. Pg 33.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Last foray of the year

Unindentified mushroom
The winter is just around the corner and the mushroom season is probably almost over. Because  I haven't been going to forays very often (life is hectic when you have a two-year old daughter) I decided to join the last MAW foray of the year at Scott's Run Nature Preserve in McLean, VA. The group was composed of approximately 15 to 20 people and it was a beautiful day, with a perfect blue sky, and pleasant temperatures. 

Pear-shaped Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme)
Because it has not been raining a lot and because the temperatures at night are reaching freezing point, there weren't too many mushrooms around, specially in the areas far from the water where humidity is quite low. Furthermore, the leaves have already fallen, and by now most mushrooms are probably hidden under the a thick layer of beige material. In spite of that, a small variety of mushrooms were found, including some Blewitts (Clitocybe nuda), Fawn Mushrooms (Pluteus atricapillus), Deadly Galerinas (Galerina autumnalis), Pear-shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme), a couple colorful and bright yellow colored Golden Waxy Cap (Hygocybe flavescens) and a variety of polypores, including the usual suspects: False Turkey Tail (Stereum ostrea), Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), Parchment fungus (Stereum complicatum), Thick Mazed Polypore (Daedalea quercina), Cinnabar-red Polypore (Pycnoporus cinnabarinus), one large specimen of what looked like a Stump Blossom (Polyporus berkeleyi) and a large number of Resinous Polypore (Ischnoderma resinosum). All in all, it was a fun foray and it gave me plenty of material to bring home for studying.

Resinous Polypore (Ischnoderma resinosum)
Since I don't expect to be going out on forays before the spring, I'll write about each of my findings over the next couple of weeks and post them in separate posts.

Thick Mazed Polypore (Daedalea quercina)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Giant Mushroom

About two weeks ago, while taking my daughter to the playground I spotted a cluster of giant mushrooms growing on a lawn near the park. Indeed, these mushrooms were so big that I initially thought they were something else. Because I did not have time to examine the specimen for a few days, I kept it in the fridge for almost a week (despite my wife's protest ;-).  Given the size of this fungi and the fact that it looked like a puff ball I was optimistic this one was going to be an edible and that it was going to feed me for a couple of days.



Gregarious (three specimens close to each other), growing on grass, under oak

Fruiting body
Pear shaped, very large, beige, dry, smooth, glabrous, wrinkled, leathery, approximately 110 mm wide at top and 140 mm of high. Odor is non-distinctive. When cut, it was possible to observe that the cuticle was quite thick and that the gleba was spongy and olive/beige.

Spore print
Not obtained

This is a specimen of Calvatia craniiformis (Schwein.) Fr., which is considered to be a very fine edible, when the gleba is pure white (not the case here). By the time I inspected it was already past its prime time and therefore was not edible anymore. I'm not sure why, but the Falcon Guide to North American Mushrooms recommends that they should be kept for one day at the refrigerator before eating. Because the genus Calvatia does not present any mushrooms with toxins and because the identification is quite easy I would think that this might be a good mushroom for beginners interested in picking edibles.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summer Mushrooms

Over the last two months my life has been quite hectic, with a lot of traveling both within the US and abroad, and little time for mushrooms picking. After a long mushroom abstinence period I finally had the chance to foray for a couple of days here in Rockville (MD) and in Richmond (VA). To my surprise my block was full of mushrooms of all types, shapes and sizes and, because this is my first summer picking mushrooms here in Rockville, I am still getting to meet the local habitants.

Some of the mushrooms I found in my two forays were the edible Agaricus campestris (Pink Bottom), a variety of boletus (which I could not identify), a nice looking (and poisonous) Amanita pantherina, some giant, and supposedly edible, Calvatia craniiformis (Purple-Spored puff ball), a huge number of the somewhat ugly puff ball Pisolithus tinctorius, a nice cluster of Coprinus (I am not sure about which one) and a few other mushrooms which I could not identify by sight and did not have enough time to inspect carefully.  In Richmond I was happy to find a nice fairy ring at my friend's yard. These mushrooms were very abundant and in all stages of development (most of them getting a bit old and dry). Because my friends were very interested in figuring out if these yummy looking mushrooms were edible (they were a bit excited with the idea of eating them) I was very was glad to help. So here we go...


Richmond, VA

Growing on grass, gregarious, multiple mushrooms growing in lines (partial fairy ring)

Conical with an umbo, light beige, dry, with concentric scales on top,  with approximately ~10-15cm of diameter, round, smell is non-distinctive

Gilled, free, with crowded gills, dark grey/green, with remnants of universal veil on the edge, lamellae are free and smooth

White, central, slender, long, equal, hollow, with superior,  dark, fringed ring

Spore print


These beautiful mushrooms are the very common Chlorophyllium molybdites Massee, a.k.a Green-spored Parasol. It is commonly found in lawns during the summer and fall, specially after rainy periods.  It is poisonous and contains type 8 toxins, which cause severe gastrointestinal upset, which can last several hours and it is, perhaps, one of the most common causes of mushroom poisoning in the US. This mushroom is commonly mistaken for Macrolepiota rachodes (the Shaggy Parasol) and Macrolepioda procera (the Parasol Mushroom), which are considered excellent edibles. The distinctive characteristics of this mushroom (which it is worth knowing well) are that Chlorophyllium grows in fairy rings and that it has a green spore print while the other two Parasols do not. Keep in mind that the gills of Chlorophyllium do not become very green and that, if you are not sure about its identity, that you should make a spore print (this should not take more than one hour).

Roody, W.C. Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians (2003), Pg 64.
Miller, O.K. and Miller, H.H. North American Mushrooms - A field guide to edible and inedible fungi (2006), Pg 52.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mushroom picking in Finland

Yesterday I went mushroom picking in the outskirts of Helsinki and it was a lot of fun. It hasn't being raining a lot and the temperatures in Helsinki this year are extremely hot for Scandinavian standards (>30C). In spite of that, I was able to find plenty of chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), a nice Russula (Russula sp) and some hedgehog mushrooms (Hydnum hepandum). My friends weren't too excited with the hedgehogs and said that they didn't enjoy them very much. The Russula, as usual, is too difficult to identify to be considered edible. On the other hand, Finish people love chanterelles, and the fact that one can already fill a basked with them, even on a short walk, seemed to make my friends hearts beat a bit faster...

One thing I liked about mushroom picking in Finland is that the typical vegetation is composed mostly of coniferous forests, for that, the hunting is very easy and the mushrooms pop out of the green moss which contrasts well with their color. The funny thing is that the chanterelle season hasn't officially started here (it starts in August) and every Finn I talked to told me that it was too early to go after them.  On the other hand, because my host knows of a nice chanterelle spot behind her garage, she has been watering it everyday and there were hundreds of chanterelles growing there (no need to go into the forest ;-). Also, the very hot and humid weather (despite the little rain) may be helping the mushrooms to fruit as well.

If one is really into eating chanterelles (why one wouldn't be???) but is not into the mood of picking them (or does not have the time to go into the woods), all that is necessary is to go to one of the many open markets around here and buy a couple liters of fresh wild mushrooms (yup, chanterelles are sold in buckets here). The price doesn't vary a lot from stand to stand but it decreases somewhat linearly with increasing quantities (1 liter = 5 Euros, 2 liters = 8 Euros, 3 liters = 10 Euros). Right now the chanterelles sold on the markets come from Estonia, which is just a few miles south of Finland and which is a little bit warmer (I highly recommend taking the boat and spending at least one day in Tallin). To be sincere I went kindda crazy with this abundancy of chanterelles and for the first few days of my trip I lived on an almost chanterelle-exclusive diet ;-). Other mushrooms which are commonly sold in markets here (albeit dry or canned at this time of the year) are Gyromitras, black chanterelles (Craterelus cornucopiodes) and porcini (Boletus edulis). Although all my mushroom picking guides don't recommend eating Gyromytras, my friends here eat them frequently and don't seem to be too scared by them or the skull label (required by law), which is always visible in the packaging whenever you buy them (they cook them for a long time and change the water at least three times).

On a last note, apparently mushroom picking is an extremely common hobby in Finland (and other neighboring countries) and pretty much every Finn knows how to pick at least a couple of mushroom species (chanterelles being definitely the most common). This hobby is somewhat inserted into the Finish culture of camping and going into the wild and it is passed from generation to generation. My friends tell me that in August, the woods around Helsinki get full of people with their baskets, and that it is almost impossible to find mushrooms near the most beaten paths. Because of that, Finns are very secretive about their chanterelle spots and are not that willing to share their location.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why join your local Mycological Association?

Some weeks ago I went for the first time to the Mycological Association of Washington (MAW) monthly meeting at the Chevy Chase Public Library (it is usually there and at the first Tuesday of each month, but you feel like going please check on first to make sure they haven't changed the venue). The meeting usually starts at 7 pm and it is a great opportunity to learn more about mushrooms, get to know other mycophiles from all ages and experience levels, and learn about all the mushroom related activities in the surroundings. Every meeting people take their recent findings, either to get an educated opinion about identification, or just for the sake of showing off to other people. On the last meeting there were a huge variety of mushroms, including jelly ears (Auricularia auricula), meadow mushrooms (A. campestris), reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum), Boletus fraternus, Thick Maze Oak Polypore (Daedaleopsis quercina) and a large variety of unidentified mushrooms.

In many ways, the meeting reminded me of the Bambui (a very nice Spelunking group in my hometown) meetings I used to go. The format is a little bit more formal, but still informal enough to make it enjoyable. The current president (Ray LaSala) makes sure everything that needs to be reported gets reported. Also, there was a section on mushroom identification by one of the former presidents, which displayed most of the field guide available and discussed the pros and cons of each one (really useful information). Last, there was a slide section with hundreds of mushroom images with nice commentary by a former president of MAW and time for questions. Really good stuff!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A "stinky" Russula

I have found these Russulas growing on mulch and grass  in my block over the last month. To me, they are not very nice looking mushrooms and, every time I found them, they were braking apart or destroyed by the lawn mowers. Last week I found some clusters that were in good shape and decided to take some home to see if I could determine their identity. On a closer look, the characteristics that stand out on these mushrooms are the strange spermatic smell, the yellow cuticle, and the compressed (shaped like a compressed tube) wide white stipe (stem). Unfortunately, when I collected this mushroom I did not know how difficult it is to identify Russulas and, therefore, did not pay enough attention to some of the important details for this hard task (spore shape and size, cap cuticle separability etc). Indeed, there are many identification keys around the internet, and each one is a little bit more confusing then the other. While searching for information on how to identify my specimens I came across a nice webtool for North American Russulas identification on the Museo Tridentino de Scienze Naturali website, which I highly recommend. Other options are the Pacific Northwest Key Council website (which by the way is a great place for getting identification keys for all North American mushrooms). Last, for specific information on stinky Russulas, there is the key key.

Location: Rockville, MD
Habitat: Gregarious, growing on grass, under conifers

Pileus diameter - 42 x 54 mm | 46 x 48 mm
Pileus height - 22 mm | 15 mm
Stipe length - 40 mm | 43 mm
Stipe diameter at apex - 13 x 15 mm | 13 x 12 mm

Stipe diameter at middle - 13 x 20 mm | 13 x 16 mm
Stipe diameter at base - 13 x 20 mm | 15.5 17.5 mm

Pileus - Yellow/brown, dry, glabrose, cracking, smooth, convex on young specimens and becoming depressed on older ones, round, margin inrolled on young speciments and upturned in older ones, flesh is white, brittle, smell is spermatic
Hymenium - white, gilled, gills are crowded/close, smooth, adnate
Stipe - white, compressed, varying from equal to clavate, hollow with floccose contents, inserted, with brown stain at the base

This looks like a member of the foetid Russula family, possibly R. foetens. Nevertheless, identifying Russulas is not an easy task and, given my naivete when collecting data on this mushroom, I had a hard time identifying it. Some possibilities would be R. amoenolens (a common foetid Russula in North America) which has been described to appear in the region where I live, but the "spermatic" smell seems to be a characteristic of R. foetens (hence the latin name foetens, which means stinky). Many of the characteristics of the mushroom also match R. laurocerasi, R. foentetula, R. and fragrantissima. For now, I'll have to classify it only as Russula sp.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Amanita volvata?

This morning I went on a foray organized by the Mycological Association of Washington at the Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC. The park is a great place for finding mushrooms and the foray was very agreeable. It rained a lot this last week and therefore there were many mushrooms growing, specially slime molds and polypores. Some of the specimens I remember were the long Xerula furfuracea,  the buggy Megacollybia platyphylla, White Coral Slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa),  Stalked Scarlet Cup (Sarcoscypha occidentalis), Red Raspberry Slime (Tubifera ferruginosa), Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), Artist's Conk (Ganoderma applanatum), Coal Mushroom (Daldinia concentrica) and a nice cluster of three amanita mushrooms that we thought could be American Amidella (Amanita volvata) and which I decided to bring home to analyze more carefully (I brought home only one and I chose the intermediate sized one, which I used for the description below). 
As all Amanitas, this one had a volva (sac of tissue around the stem base), but contrary to most of them, this one did not have a ring around the stem. Mycologists use this information to help classify mushrooms, and since most amanitas are lethally toxic when eaten (with as small number of exceptions), one should pay a lot of attention to every detail when trying to identify amanitas, specially the presence or absence of rings and volvas. Other things that we noted immediately on these mushrooms was the large size (the biggest one had a cap that was probably 15 cm wide or wider) and the white color. On a more careful examination we observed that the mushroom bruised red/pink and that the gills under the cap were white. All these characteristics (and the ones described below) could suggest a member of the Amanita section Amidella.

After posting my photos and description at Mushroom Observer,  Dr. Rodham Tuloss (an Amanita mycologist which has a very good website on Amanitas) sent me some comments and pointed out that "Amidellas are very hard to determine from a picture or even with one in your hand" and that ones has to rely on a microscope. Therefore for now I'll call this specimen just Amanita sp.

If this mushroom were indeed A. volvata, it would be a non-edible mushroom (as most Amanitas). 

Growing on soil, near dead wood, gregarious, cluster of two specimens very close to each other and another approximately 50 cm away.

Pileus – white, dull, dry, with remnants of the universal veil (appressed scales), bruises initially light red and then becomes brown very slowly, round, convex to flat, flesh is white, margin is striated.
Hymenium – gilled, gills are white, crowded, free, smooth, margin is entire, crenate.
Stipe – white, hollow with cottony cluster inside, cartilaginous, tapered toward apex, with white and elongated volva at the base, flocose near apex, inserted, smell is weak and non-distinctive.

Pileus height – 22 mm
Pileus diameter – 48-50 mm
Stipe diameter at apex – 8 mm
Stipe diameter at middle – 9.5 mm
Stipe diameter at base – 13 mm
Stipe length – 120 mm
Volva height – 4.5 cm

Monday, June 7, 2010

An edible Amanita that I'll not eat

This is the second mushroom I found on my walk today. The shiny silver metallic cap caught my attention. When I moved the grass aside to see the base of it, to my surprise I found a bright white volva and a white stem, therefore suggesting a mushroom from the Amanita genus.

Date: 06/07/2010
Location: Rockville, MD
Habitat: growing on grass, two specimens close together

Pileus diameter - 30 mm
Pileus height - 21 mm
Stipe length - 70 mm
Stipe diameter at apex - 6.7 mm
Stipe diameter at middle - 6.7 mm
Stipe diameter at base - 6.7 mm

Pileus - metallic gray, glabrous, round, convex, margin entire, striated, flesh is white, does not bruise any color, smell is non-distinctive
Hymenium - white, gilled, gills are close, free, narrow, smooth/finely serrulated
Stipe - white, central, somewhat compressed, hollow, equal, with white volva, no ring, flexible, inserted
Spore print - white

This looks like Amanita vaginata, one of the few edible amanitas. The white spore print, the presence of a white volva, metallic gray cuticle, absence of a ring and the white free gills are all very suggestive of this species. Despite the reasonably easy identification I am not brave enough to eat it and would not suggest anyone eating it. Amanitas cannot be taken lightly and a single mistake is often fatal (causing a painful and long death due to liver insufficiency which is only treatable by liver transplantation). Unless you are 100% sure of the identification, you should never ever eat amanitas (unless it is a cultivated species and you are buying it from a reliable commercial vendor). The other famous edible amanita is A. cesarea (Cesar's amanita) which is also reasonably easy to identify, but which also requires the utmost care.

Another bolete

It is amazing the variety of mushrooms one can find just walking around the block, specially if you consider that I live in a highly urbanized area that does not have much more than lawn, pines, oak and maple. Everyday I go out I see at least two or three different mushrooms which I had never seen before. Today I found two nice specimens: a bolete and a silver color gilled mushroom which I'll decribe later.

Date: 06/07/2010
Location: Rockville, MD

Pileus diameter - 32 mm
Pileus height - 22 mm
Stipe length - 45 mm
Stipe diameter at apex - 10 mm
Stipe diameter at middle - 10 mm
Stipe diameter at base - 10.5 mm

Pileus - dark brown, dry, dull, convex, round, glabrous, margin is entire, no partial veil, smell is agreeable but non-distinctive, insipid. Flesh is white and bruise blue quickly.
Hymenium - with pores, red/brown, bruises black (it may be very dark blue), pores are small/medium, tubes are 6.9 mm at thickest part of hymenium
Stipe - solid, brown color outside, clavate, inserted, no ring or volva, bruises black inside when cut, it is red colored towards the base (inside), flexible, no reticulation, no scabbers.
Spore print - could not obtained

This is a bolete but I could not identify with certainty the species. It is possibly B. subvelutipes but I would need to check the spores and the microscopic characteristics of it to be certain. Anyway, since this bolete has a red pore surface and bruises black I would not eat it. There is a good chance it is poisonous since most boletes with red pores are.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Boletus sp.

It rained a lot this week. Therefore there are plenty of mushrooms growing on the lawns around my block. On a short walk today I spotted at least 5 or 6 different species of mushrooms growing (ex. Russula sp., Ganoderma lucidum, Panaelous fonisecii and some two or three others that I did not know). I am going to start by these boletes which I though were quite beautiful.

Date: 06/06/2010
Location: Rockville, MD
Habitat: Growing on grass, two specimens one meter apart

Pileus diameter - 25 mm | 26 mm
Pileus height - 5.5 mm | 8.8 mm
Stipe length - 31 mm | 31 mm
Stipe diamater at apex - 6.8 mm | 8.8 mm
Stipe diameter at middle - 7.6 mm | 10.2 mm
Stipe diameter at base - 10.2 mm | 8.5 mm

Pileus - Brick red/orange brown color, glabrose, dry, dull, smooth, round, convex/flat, margin is entire,  plane, no partial veil, insipid, inodorous.
Hymenium - white with tiny pores, bruises brown but very slowly, pores are circular.
Stipe - solid (one of them had a small central whole towards the middle of the stipe), white flesh, bicolorous surface with brown bottom and light brown top, inserted, no ring, volva or reticulation.
Spore print - did not manage to obtain one.

It looks like a bolete but I can not identify the species. I posted it on Mushroom Observer to see what other people thing and Irene Anderson suggested that it could be Gyroporus castaneus. This little bolete is a common urban inhabitant. Roger's Mushrooms consider it to be edible and excellent. Given that boletes are reasonably easy to identify and, if you exclude the red boletes and the ones that bruise blues, most do not have any poison next time I find other G. castaneus I'll definitely try them ;-)

Train Wrecker

Yesterday, at the playground with my daughter, I spotted this one growing under a pine tree. The big and white cluster shined against the grass and the pine trunk making it easy to spot from the distance. This made me wonder about how easy it is to find plenty of mushrooms even on a highly urbanized area like the one where I live.

Location: Rockville, MD
Date: 05/10/2010
Habitat: Cluster of three specimens, growing under live pine, caespitose (3 specimens connected through the stipe in the shape of a trident).

Pileus diameter - 35 mm | 70 mm | 80 mm
Pileus height - 10 mm | 17 mm | 18 mm
Stipe length - 35 mm | 43 mm | 41 mm
Stipe diameter at apex - 7.5 mm | 10.5 mm | 13.5 mm
Stipe diameter at middle - 6.0 mm | 9.5 mm | 12.5 mm
Stipe diameter at base - 5.7 mm | 11.5 mm | 10.0 mm

Pileus - light cream color with brown, concentric scales looking like remnants of the universal veil, scales can be detached with a little effort, cuticle is dull, dry. Shape is round, convex to flat, narrowly depressed. Margin is inrolled, tinted light yellow, somewhat eroded. Smell is fragrant but non-distinctive. Flesh is white.

Hymenium - gilled, gills are white, attached and sub-decurrent, subdistant, moderately broad, somewhat eroded.

Stipe - central, solid, flexible, radicated, equal, scabrous. Flesh is white, does not bruise any color upon cutting, when young surface seems fibrilose.

Spore print - white

This is very probably a specimen of Neolentinus lepideus (previously named Lentinus lepideus), which has the common name of Train Wrecker. Another option would be that this is a Neolentinus ponderosus (the appressed scales on the pileus are suggestive of this second species). See a key for this genus here. Roger Mushrooms and Miller's Mushrooms of North America consider N. lepideus edible1,2 while Kuo consider it mediocre3 (Although the smell is quite good, I haven't tried it and do not plan to try it). The Falcon guide mentions that it is quite tough and that it requires considerable cooking to soften them enough to eat, therefore suggesting that only young specimens are good and that the caps are more appropriate for consumption than the stipes.

On another note, almost all the observed characteristics described above fit the descriptions for this fungi. The only thing that is a bit strange to me is that no guide I have mention that it has a radicated stipe (see the root like structure on the photos). Maybe the other authors did not dig their specimens but I doubt it. Alternatively, this is a new species of Neolentinus (because of the radicated stipe I would possibly call it Neolentinus radicatus ;-). For now, I'll freeze it and extract some gDNA out of it, just in case.

Last, the common name for this mushroom is derived from the fact that it is usually found growing on wood and in some cases in railroad ties, supposedly being able to cause a train wreck by damaging the tracks. This fungi is saprotrophic and causes a wet rot in construction materials and, according to the wikipedia, it is highly resistant to wood preservatives (i.e. creosote and others). I am sure you don't want to eat mushrooms growing on treated wood, specially because in the past some people used to treat wood with heavy metals and some nasty non-biodegradable organic compounds ;-).

1 - Rogers Mushrooms. Retrieved on 06/05/2010.
2 - A Falcon Guide to North American Mushrooms (2006). Miller Jr. OKM and Miller HH. First Edition. Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, CT. ISBN 978-0-7627-3109-1.
3 - 100 Edible Mushrooms with tested recipes (2007). Michael Kuo. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. ISBN-10: 0-472-03126-0.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Unindentified Mushroom

I found these ones growing in large numbers on the ground and on top of dead wood.

Date: 05/30/2010
Location: Rockville, MD
Habitat: Growing in a cluster in the woods (near Woodmont Country Club)

Stipe length - 81 mm
Stipe diameter at base: 7.5 mm wide, 4.5 mm thick
Stipe diameter at middle: 7.5 mm wide, 4.5 mm thick
Stipe diameter at apex: 7.5 mm wide, 4.5 mm thick
Pileus height: 17 mm
Pileus diameter: 37mm  x 27 mm

Pileus - parabolic, round, light beige, dull, smooth, glabrous, unicolorous, margin is entire, plane.
Hymenium - gilled, adnate, gills are light brown, subdistant, soft, smooth, narrow
Stipe - central, equal, hollow, flexible, white, glabrous, compressed, inserted

Spore print - brown

The most striking characteristic of this specimen was the was the equal and compressed white stipe. I have no idea what it could be and therefore will submit it to Mushroom Observer to get some ideas and will post the result of the discussion here later.

Mushroom Observer Comments
Dave W and Douglas Smith suggested that this could be a Psathyrella, most probably Psathyrella candolleana. According to Michael Kuo's Mushroom Expert, this mushroom is very variable in color and in habitat and it is very difficult to identify Psathyrellas without microscopic analysis. Therefore it may be safer to call this one just Psathyrella sp. Most probably I should type it by sequencing but the mushroom has already deteriorated (it almost disappeared after leaving it outside of the fridge over night).

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A nice red lawn mushroom

This is another mushroom found on my last (and productive) walk around the block. I had seen it before, always growing on grass as solitary specimens. This time I collected two or three that were growing a couple feet from each other, to examine them closely. This mushroom has a nice purple colored cap that contrasts nicely with its white and uplifted gills.

Date: 05/30/2010
Location: Rockville, MD


Solitary, growing on grass

Pileus height - 9 mm
Pileus diameter - 36 mm
Stipe length - 30 mm
Stipe diameter at apex - 10.5 mm
Stipe diameter at middle - 10.5 mm
Stipe diameter at base - 13.5 mm

Pileus - dry, somewhat cracked and with some dirt on top, red/purple color, flat/narrowly depressed, margin is uplturned, crisped. Semi-round. Smell is non-distinctive. Taste is somewhat peppery.
Hymenium- gilled, white, sub-distant, adnexed, moderately broad, smooth

Stipe - central, hollow with spongy like content, slightly large at base, white, soft, inserted

Spore print - didn't manage to obtain one

To me this specimens look like one of the many red Russulaceae. It has many of the features of the poisonous Russula emetica (the sickener) but it could also be the edible R. pulchra Burlingham (see: Roody W.C., Pg 230). Alternatively it could be either the poisonous R. mairei (beechwood sickener), R. atropurpurea or R. luteotacta. By now, the attentive reader may have figured out that identifying Russulacea is not easy and that therefore eating them is not advisable, specially the red ones. For now I'll call these specimens above just Russula sp.