Sunday, October 2, 2011

Foray at Wheaton Regional Park

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)
Yesterday I went to another excellent foray at Wheaton Regional Park. Despite the rainy day and the cold weather, the foray was a lot of fun. The group explored the area following the path to the left of Brookside Nature Center (see location here). 
The forest was full of mushrooms including many edibles. Some of them were Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa), Honey Mushroom (Armilaria mellea), Aborted Entoloma (Entoloma abortvitum),  Gem-studded Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum), the Grisette (Amanita fulva) and some old (yet still good to eat) Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius). 

Violet-branched Coral (Clavulina amethystina)
Apart from that, there were a large variety of coral mushrooms, including Smoky Worm Coral (Clavaria claviculata), Spindle-shaped Yellow Coral (C. fusiformis), Yellow Tunning Fork (Calocera viscosa), Purple Club Coral (Clavaria purpuria), Vase Telphoras (Telephora vialis) and Violet-branched Coral (Clavulina amethystina).

We also found Poison Pig-skin Puffball (Scleroderma citrinum),  False Turkey Tail (Stereum ostrea), Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), White Cheese Polypore (Tyromyces chioneus), Thin-mazed Polypore (Daedaleopsis confragosa), Rooted Collybia (Xerula furfuracea), Gilled Bolete (Phylloporus rhodoxanthus), Yellow Unicorn Entoloma (Entoloma muraii), a variety of red russulas (Russula sp.), some Lactarius and some Waxi Caps (Hygrocybe sp.) including the Golden Waxy Cap (Hygrocybe flavescens) and the Candy-apple Waxy Cap (Hygrocybe cuspidata).
Smoky Worm Coral (Clavaria rubicundula)

Last, given the large variety and abundance of edibles we found yesterday, I am expecting that the MAW Fall Tasting event (this Tuesday, October 4th at 7 pm) at Kensington Park public library this year won't be anything but excellent. Therefore, if you are not a member of MAW yet, and you are interested in trying some wild mushrooms this week, this is a great time to join (only members are allowed on the tasting events).

Monday, September 26, 2011

When in doubt, throw it out!

Some Amanitas growing near where I live
I read yesterday on that three people in the DC region recently got poisoned by wild mushrooms (supposedly by A. virosa a.k.a. Destroying Angel) and that doctors at Georgetown are recommending people not to eat any wild mushrooms. I understand doctors trying to be as comprehensive as possible on their recommendations in order to reach the largest number of people. After all, promoting health is one of the major tenets of medicine (and it should be). On the other hand, I don't think that it is fair to blame all wild mushrooms for these poisonings and to generate more mycophobia because of these unfortunate events. Many plants, as well as fish, molluscs, insects, reptiles and fungi could cause poisoning (try eating puffer fish or making a salad out of poison ivy ;-). I believe that the problem here was not mushroom picking itself but reckless mushroom picking. Indeed, I know more than a dozen people that have been eating wild mushrooms for decades and that are still around and never had to be hospitalized for their mushroom picking habits. Quite the opposite, they have free access to some of the best edible fungi around! Not only that, these people have found a great excuse to go outside, meet people and to keep their brains active (there are more than 50.000 known species of macrofungi and learning how to identify some of them can be quite challenging). In any case, the role of this blog post is to, perhaps, fix some of the prejudices about mushrooms picking by attacking some myths.

The Myths
1) Mushroom picking is very dangerous
Like driving a car, mushroom picking and identification are skills that are acquired by education and training. Mushroom picking skills are usually learned from other mushroom pickers like family and friends, and from good guide books. The same way I wouldn't recommend anyone to buy a car and go driving without getting a license first, I wouldn't recommend anyone to start picking whatever fungi is growing on their yard or woods and cooking them. On the other hand, if you take the time to learn it properly, both driving and mushroom picking can be very fun and useful.

2) Most wild mushrooms are poisonous.
The minority of wild mushrooms are poisonous (it is estimated by some than less than 5% are). That doesn't mean that one should approach mushroom picking without respect! One should always remember that poisonous mushrooms can be very deadly poisonous.

3) One can easily mistake a deadly mushroom for an edible one
This is usually not the case (if you take proper care) but it is what probably scares most people and makes some ask "why bother with a hobby that could be so dangerous?". The answer is, in my opinion, somewhat technical.
There are many types of mushrooms, which are broadly divided based on their reproductive organs (usually, but not necessarily, the surface under the cap). Most dangerous mushrooms have reproductive organs organized in the form of gills (like the white button mushroom you buy at the supermarket). The gills are a nice adaptation to increase surface area so that mushrooms can produce the maximum amount of spores without having to resort to gigantic caps.  Unfortunately, mushrooms that looks the least dangerous (i.e. looks similar to the ones most people are used to eat) are exactly the ones beginners should avoid. Indeed, the whole idea of mushroom picking  for the table is learning how to pick species that you are 100% confident about their identification (or that you can deal with the risk of mistaken it for a lookalike). This is summarized by the mushroom pickers adage "when in doubt, throw it out". 
For beginners, the best strategy is to stick with species that don't have deadly lookalikes or, in other words - don't be bold (this can be summarized by the second adage "there are old or bold mushroom pickers but not bold and old mushroom pickers". For instance, if one starts with mushrooms like morels, chanterelles and puff balls (and the mushroom are properly cooked), even if a mistake is made, chances are that one is not going to die (gastrointestinal upset may happen). On the other hand if one is looking for nice looking white gilled mushrooms (or even small brown gilled mushrooms) and a mistake is made (for instance, an Agaricus is swapped for an Amanita or a Psilocybes is swapped for a Galerina), serious hepatic and renal damage (and potentially death in 10-15% of the cases) could happen. 
One last note: mushroom identification is region dependent and, therefore, it is recommended that one learns how to identify the local mushrooms and that one sticks to them. Many cases of mushroom poisoning happen with immigrants because they try to apply their local knowledge/culture to other regions.

4) Mushroom picking is very hard and complex
Again, a common misconception. Mushroom picking is a very popular hobby in many parts of our planet and it is enjoyed by millions of people of all ages. Indeed, in eastern Europe and the Nordic countries, mushroom picking is probably the most popular hobby.  Most of my Finnish friends know how to pick Morels and Chanterelles. Because so many people pick mushrooms, in the countries where this is a popular hobby, a culture is developed, and this is passed from generation to generation. People learn how to pick mushrooms from their parents and grand parents, and when time come, they pass it to their kids.

5) The only way to learn mushroom picking is from your family members
False again. You can join a Mycological Association near your home (that's what I did). Alternatively you can try to learn about mushroom picking by reading books (I suggest doing this very carefully if doing it exclusively) or by tagging along friends that know how to do it. Mushroom clubs exist in most capitals around the US and in many countries. They usually organize forays, seminars and other events to educate members and the general public about mushroom identification and other aspects of amateur mycology.

A non comprehensive list is below:

Mycological Associations 
International Mycological Associations (IMA)
European Mycological Association (EMA)
African Mycological Association (AMA)
Latin American Mycological Association (ALM)
Canadian Mycological Associations
Gulf States Mycological Association (GSMYCO)
Australasian Mycological Society
British Mycological Society (BMS)

North American Mycological Association (NAMA)
Mycological Association of Washington DC (MAW)
Mycological Association of New Jersey (MANJ)
Minnesota Mycological Society (MMS)
The Connecticut-Westchester Mycological Association (COMA)
Illinois Mycological Association (IMA)
Sonoma County Mycological Association (SOMA)
Maine Mycological Association (MMA)
Western Montana Mycological Association (WMMA)
Mycological Society of San Francisco (MSSF)
Wisconsin Mycological Association (WMA)
New York Mycological Society (NYMS)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chicken-fat Suillus

A couple of weeks ago, after hurricane Irene, I picked a large variety of pored mushrooms from the lawns around where I live and promised here that I would try to post something about them once a week. Actually, with a newborn at home now, I was lucky to find some time today to write this little post.

The mushroom I'll describe in detail below was specially interesting to me since it had a variety of peculiar phenotypic characteristics (i.e. apressed patches, glandular stipe, sticky surface etc) that made it easily stand out from the crowd.

Date: 09/05/2011
Location: Rollins Park, MD
Habitat: Solitary, growing on grass/moss, near pine trees

Pileus diameter - 5.0 cm
Pileus height - 15 mm
Stipe length - 37.7 mm
Stipe diameter at apex - 8.7 mm
Stipe diameter at middle - 7.1 mm
Stipe diameter at base - 7.1 mm

Pileus - yellow with brown appressed patches, flat with umbo and depression around it, round, margin is entire, smell is fragrant, somethwat citric. Context is light yellow, doesn't stain, flavor is somewhat acidic.
Hymenium - with large (~1mm) pores, beige with orange tone, does not stain when bruised, tubes are 5-6 mm long
Stipe - central, solid, equal, slender, with red/orange spots, sticky on the outside (resinous), color is similar to hymenium, does not stain when bruised, with glandular dots, without ring.
Spore print - ochre/brown

This is a member of the Suillus genus, most probably Suillus americanus, an edible (some consider it choice, most consider it mediocre) mushroom that grows under white pine in eastern North America. Some of the characteristics of the specimen I found don't fit with the description from the key in North American Boletes. For instance, the mushroom did not stain my fingers, flavor was a bit acid (it should have mild non-distinctive taste) and the context did not stain purplish-brown when cut (I did not notice any staining at all). Despite the differences, I would still call it S. americanus given that all the other characteristics fit the key and it looks a lot like the photos from all my guide books. According to Roody's Mushrooms of West Virginia, there are reports that this mushroom can cause allergic contact dermatitis in some individuals and, according to Kuo's 100 Edible Mushrooms, it causes gastrointestinal irritation in some individuals. Some lookalikes are S. subaureus, which grows in broad-leaved woods, and S. sibiricus which has brown spots on the pileus, is darker or more dingy yellow, has a thicker stipe and is also associated with pine. To my knowledge there aren't any poisonous Suillus mushrooms.

Bessette AE, Roody WC and Bessette AR. North American Boletes, A Color Guide to the Fleshy Pored Mushrooms, Pages 227 and 332.
Kuo M.  100 Edible Mushrooms. Pages 215-6.
Lincoff GH. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, Page 581.
Roody WC. Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians, Page 335.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Bolete with Reticulated Stipe

This year my block has been pretty giving in regards to boletes (and other mushrooms). Perhaps this is due to the fact that there is a good amount of oak, maple and pine trees planted around here and that they are all quite old (I would guess at least 50 years old). Perhaps is just luck or, maybe, this happened everywhere in the DC region and I am just not aware of it. In any case, I've been trying to pick some different boletes everyday I go out to see if I get a chance to play with the identification keys from "North American Boletes: A Color Guide to the Fleshy Pored Mushrooms" by  Bessete and colleagues. Obviously I haven't had the time to post all the boletes I found, but I'll try to post something once a week (let's see how it is going to be once my second son is born next week ;-). As a last comment, today was a perfect day for picking mushrooms around here and there were hundreds of mushrooms growing in the lawns around here (Rollins Park, Rockville, MD). On a first look, I could easily identify A. volvata, A. amerimuscariaA. panterina, A. campestris, C. craniformis/C. cyathiformis, P. tinctorius, some Tylopilus sp., and various Russulas (red and yellow). There were also a few other species that I could not identify and that I'll try to post about later this week. Today I am going to post something about a bolete I found a few days ago.

Date: 08/28/2011
Location: Rollins Park, Rockville, MD
Habitat: Growing on grass, under oak, solitary

Pileus - Orange/brown, velvety, somewhat flat with depressed center, ovoid, margin is incurved, context, context is light salmon color, flavor and taste are non-distinctive
Hymenium - yellow, with pores, pores are irregular and polygonal, surface does not stain when bruised, tubes are approximately 5 mm long
Stipe - solid, equal, eccentric, surface is coarsely reticulated, color is light beige, context is white and it turns light pink fast upon cutting, no ring or partial veil observed.
Spore print - not obtained

This seems to be a specimen of Boletus illudens, an edible mushroom that usually grows between July-October, under oak, on the East Coast. Is is also known as Xerocomus illudens.

Update (09/06/2011)
I have posted some photos and the description on to see what other people think and I'll update this page later to include this information.

Update (09/06/2011)
Dave W from has suggested this specimen looks more like B. tenax. According to Roy Halling (also at both mushrooms are very similar but the context is pale yellow in B. illudens and white in B. tenax. Also the stipe color is yellow in B. illudens and whitish in B. tenax.

Bessette AE, Roody WC, Bessette AR. North American Boletes: A  Color Guide to the Flesh Pored Mushrooms, Page 121

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Two edible puffballs

On late summer/early fall, with a little bit of luck, it is possible to find some pretty large edible puffballs. Although I wasn't too lucky this summer, last week my mother in law brought me three large puffballs, two of which were in great shape for the pan. Also, when walking to work this Friday, I found a golf ball shaped (and sized) mushroom growing on the lawn near the Twinbrook Metro Station. The mushroom was easy to spot due to its bright white color that was contrasting with the green. Although I've found these two types of mushrooms before, I had never found such fresh and young specimens and therefore I never had a good chance to taste them. The fact that it is so easy to identify them tempts me to try them later today. Indeed, because of its characteristic shape, size and the lack of dangerous lookalikes, large puffballs like Calvatia craniformis, Calvatia gigantea and Calvatia cyathiformis are considered by some 'good mushrooms for beginners'.

First specimen
Date: 08/31/2011

Location: Bowie, MD

Habitat: Gregarious, growing on grass
Mushrooms are pear shaped with light-brown to beige cuticle. The top part of the mushroom has shallow cracks which give it a brain-like appearance. The crack troughs are darker than the rest of the cuticle. Context is bright white, spongy and homogeneous. Smell is non-distinctive. There is no clear stipe or hymenium.
Diameter - 10-11 cm
Height - 10 cm
This is a specimen of Calvatia, possibly C. craniformis or C. cyathiformis. Both are edible mushrooms and the only way to identify them is to look at mature specimens and compare the color of the spore mass. In C. craniformis the spore mass is yellow, while in C. cyathiformis the spore mass is purple-brown. C. cyathiformis is more common in lawns and urban settings while C. craniformis is more common in woods. Both grow to very large sizes (not as large C. gigantea) and occur on late summer-early fall.

Lycoperdon perlatum
Second specimen
Date: 09/02/2011
Location: Parking lot of Twinbrook Metro Station, Rockville, MD
Habitat: Gregarious, growing on grass
Somewhat pear shaped with tappered base, cuticle is composed of multiple polyhedral warts. Context is white, spongy and homogeneous. Smell is non-distinctive. No spore mass observed.
This is possibly a specimen of Lycoperdon perlatum (a.k.a. Gem-studded Puffball), a common summer-fall mushroom, which is edible when young. The taste is described as being inferior to Calvatias and because of it's small size, one should be careful not to mistake if for Amanita buds.

Roody, WC. Mushrooms of West Virginia and Appalachians. Pages 440 and  445.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

After Irene

Pisolithus tinctorius
Hurricane Irene has just passed through Rockville last night  and, despite the fuzz, without much destruction. To compensate for the hurricane, the weather today was just amazing. In the afternoon, when the temperatures were getting warmer and the cool breeze was still blowing, I decided to go for my usual walk around the block with my wife and daughter to see if we could spend a little bit of my daughter's endless energy and to see which mushrooms I could find. Not surprisingly, after a week of hot weather, a good amount of rain and lots of humidity, mushrooms were growing everywhere (every few steps I had to stop to look at something interesting).

Hours of entertainment
Some of the mushrooms I could easily identify were the long and slim Xerula megalospora, various Boletes (in various stages of development), a couple Tylopilus plumbeoviolaceous (described in a previous post), some very large Agaricus campestris (there were so many this year that, if people didn't spray so much herbicide around here, one could eat A. campestris for weeks in a row), the interesting puffball Pisolithus tinctorius (which I usually find around my block in the late summer), the very common lawn mushroom Panaeolus foenicecii, some red Russulas sp. (other Russulas as well), a good number of yellow mushrooms that to me looked like Amanitas (perhaps A. flavoconia), some clusters of brown mushrooms that I think were some type of Gymnopus and a couple others which I could not identify easily.

Perhaps Gymnopus sp.
All in all, I easily counted more than 15 species (except for the brown "Gymnopus", all growing on grass under oak or pine tree). This is a good evidence of how rich the urban fungal biodiversity around the DC area is. Indeed, most of the mushrooms I show on this blog are collected in an area of approximately 6 blocks around where I live, in a very urbanized area (mostly lawns and sidewalks). Later this week I am going to post detailed descriptions and discussions about some of the mushrooms I found today (I already spent enough time in front of the computer for one day). For now I am only going to share some photos.

Perhaps Amanita flavoconia
By the way, I usually post most of my mushroom photos on (MO). This is a great place to practice  identification skills, help other people, and to get educated opinions on mushrooms one is trying to identify. Some top amateur (and professional) mycologists around the country post frequently on the MO website. A couple of times I got great information about Amanitas from Rodham Tuloss (one of the top authorities on Amanitas).  If for nothing else, MO is a great place to browse beautiful photos from mushrooms around the globe and to get an idea of what is growing around the region where you live.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reddening Lepiota

After a couple of very dry weeks, we finally got enough precipitation in the DC region to allow mushrooms to grow. Nevertheless, because my wife is 9 months pregnant, I decided not to go out last weekend and, instead, decided to enjoy one of our last baby-free weekends together.

To my surprise (perhaps to compensate my predictable frustration), this weekend my in laws brought a box of nice looking mushrooms, all of the same species, and at various stages of development (as you know, one could not ask for anything better when trying to identify mushrooms). At a first they looked to me like either a Lepiota or Chrolophylum molybdites. Given how frequent C. molybdites is in our region and how easy it is to mistake it for one of the edible Lepiotas, I thought it was worth describing these in detail and to spend some time discussing their identification.

Bowie, MD

Gregarious, growing on mulch, in total 15 specimens collected at various developmental stages, some as cespitose (clusters of 2-3 specimens sharing the same stipe).

Pileus diameter - 40-110 mm
Pileus height - 37-19 mm (not that I inverted the values since the smaller pilei are the ones which are the tallest and vice-versa)
Stipe height - 70-120 mm
Stipe diameter at apex - 10 mm
Stipe diameter at middle - 10-13 mm
Stipe diameter at base - 22-26 mm

Pileus - Shape varying from convex to flat with umbo, round. Surface is scaly. Scales are concentric, pinkish-buff to brown color, with white between them. Flesh is white, bruising yellow-orange. Smell is non-distinctive.
Hymenium - Gills are free, close, smooth, white when young and red to brown when older.
Stipe - Central, clavate, hollow. With fringed ring located near the top (30/70). Above the ring the stipe is white and bellow it is brown-red. Ring is white on the upper surface and dark brown on the bottom. Right below the ring there is a dark brown circular belt. Flesh bruises yellow-orange.
Spore print - white

These are specimens of Lepiota americana (Reddening Lepiota). They are considered choice edibles but can be confused with some poisonous look alikes and most guide books don't suggest these as being a good choice for beginners. For instance, one can easily mistake the Reddening Lepiota for the Green Spored Parasol (Chlorophyllum molybdites). The major difference between the two being the spore color which is white for the Reddening Lepiota and green for C. molybdites. Furthermore, L. americana gills stain red as the mushroom ages while C. molybdites gills tends to become green/gray with time. C. molybdites is not supposed to be lethal but some say it can make you feel like dying. Other look alikes (which are not so worrisome) are the edible Macrolepiota procera (Parasol Mushroom) and Lepiota rachodes (Shaggy Parasol). The major differences between the Parasol Mushroom and the Reddening Parasol are that the former does not stain and that it has a slender stipe while the latter has a clavate (club shaped) stipe that stains yellow when cut. In regards to the Shaggy Parasol, the major difference is that its scales are much coarser (hence the "shaggy" on its name) and that it bruises brown instead of yellow/reddish. Although those focused on mushroom picking only for eating may not be to worried about mistaking one edible for another, giving the similarity between the four mushrooms described above I would highly recommend getting to know how to identify the four of them well.

Last, but not least. One could possibly mistake Lepiotas with Amanitas (a much more serious mistake with possible lethal consequences). Although Amanitas have volvas, one can easily miss the volva when collecting the mushroom if not careful enough and both genus have rings and white spores. For instance, one could mistake the Reddening Lepiota for the edible blusher (A. rubescens) or, worse, with the poisonous A. panterina or A. flavorubescens.

Lincoff, G.H. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. Page 513.
Roody, W.C. Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians. Pages 66,68.
Kuo, M. 100 Edible Mushrooms. Pages 50-53;279-83.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A very orange bolete

Note the bright orange cuticle,
specially within the erosions.
North American Boletes: A Color Guide to the Fleshy Pored MushroomsAmong the many Boletes that we found on the last foray at Black Hills Regional Park were a couple very orange ones. The specimens we found were pretty mature and buggy but they were good enough for identification and still had a lot of the very orange color that was probably covering the whole pileus when it was young.
Date: 07/17/2011
Location: Black Hill Regional Park, Boyds, MDHabitat: solitary, growing on ground

Note the short stipe which is stained brown.
pileus diameter - 66 mm
pileus height - 16 mm
stipe length - 40 mm
stipe diameter at apex - 18 x 38 mm
stipe diameter at middle - 19 x 27 mm
stipe diameter at base - 10 x 14 mm

Pileus - irregularly shaped, somewhat flat, eroded,  erosions are bright orange while rest of cuticle is beige/tan, glabrous to velvety, context is white, smell is non-distinctive, taste is somewhat bitter
Hymenium - white/beige, with brown stains, bruises brown, pores are round to oval, tubes are 4.9 mm long
Stipe - compressed, central, solid (very buggy), tapering towards the base, white near the pore surface and stained brown with an orange tint near everywhere else. No ring or partial veil.
Spore print - not obtained

Note the brown stain at pore surface
and the brown stained stipe.
This seems to be a specimen of Tylopilus ballouii. I did not observe any context staining. Apart from this, all the rest of the characteristics fit well with the description for this species. The fact that it was bitter, the orange color and that it stains brown when bruised are all suggestive of T. baloluii (Burnt-Orange Bolete). This is considered to be an edible but is reported to be sometimes bitter.

Boletes of North America: A Color Guide to the Fleshy Pored Mushrooms, page 26

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Foray at Black Hill Regional Park (Boyds, MD)

Today I went to a foray organized by MAW at Black Hill Regional Park (thanks Mitch!). Perhaps because it was in Boyds and because the weather today was a little bit on the hot side (maxima of 38C), not many people showed up. On the other hand, maybe it was that fact that it had not rained much over the last few days, that we've been having almost daily temperatures on the 32-40C (90-100) range or it was just the disappointing results of the last foray at Lake Bernard Frank that dissuaded most people to come. In any case, it was unfortunate for those that missed it, and to my surprise, this time we found a very large variety (and I really mean large) of amanitas and boletes. Most of them were starting becoming infested by insects, but we had the chance of seeing mushrooms on all developmental stages. Indeed, I would say that this foray was a paradise for boletes afficionados, with boletes popping up everywhere (some the size of my cap). Some of the mushrooms that we think we could identify were Telephora vialis (Vase Telephore), Laetiporus cincinnatus (Chicken of the Woods), Boletus vermiculosoides, Scleroderma citrinum (Pigskin Poison Puffball), Tylopilus plumbeoviolaceous (Violet-gray Bolete), Boletus pallidus (Pale Bolete), Boletus carminiporus, Amanita flacoconia, Amanita brunnescens (Cleft-foor Amanita), Amanita citrina (Citron Amanita), Amanita flavorubescens (Yellow Blusher), Cantharellus lateritius (Smooth Chanterelles), Amanita virosa (Destroying Angel) and Stereum ostrea (False Turkey-tail). We also found some Lepiotas and russulas and some old polypores (as usual). Because bolete identification is challenging and because I am a complete newbie to it, I brought a few specimens home to try my best on them. The specimen I am going to describe was particularly interesting because it follows the general rule of bolete edibility (i.e. does not stain blue, does not have red pore surface and does not taste bitter).

Date: 07/23/2011
Location: Black Hill Regional Park, Boyds, MD
Habitat: Growing on soil, two specimens near each other, on oak forest

Note the bright yellow hymenium
that does not stain.
Pileus diameter - 56 mm
Pileus height - 15 mm
Stipe length - 61 mm
Stipe diameter at apex - 12 mm
Stipe diameter at middle - 12 mm
Stipe diamter at base - 14 mm tapering until 8 mm at the tip

Pileus - convex, smooth, dull, pale brown/beige, flesh is pale yellow, does not bruise when cut, odor is non-distinctive, taste is mild, perhaps slightly acidic.
Hymenium - bright yellow, does not stain, tubes are 3 mm long, pores are angular and approximately 0.6mm in diameter.
Stipe - central, nearly equal somewhat clavate, solid, light yellow, cuticle is glabrous and with shallow ribs, yellowish near the apex and brown near the base with a white tip at the far bottom, not reticulated, without ring or partial veil.

Note the clavate stipe with shallow
Most probably this mushroom is a Boletus innixus. Other look alikes are B. flaviporus and B. auriporus (which by the way was our first guess). B. innixus has a non-distinctive flavor and a short (3-6 cm long, 1-1.6 cm thick at apex and up to 2.5 cm at base) club shaped stout stipe (the measurements of my specimen could perhaps follow under this definition) while B. flaviporus is supposed to have an acidic flavor and to have a long (1-3 cm long), thick (1-3 cm) and nearly equal or tapered in either direction stipe (my specimen was nearly equal). Maybe more important, B. flaviporus is supposed to occur only in California and Oregon, while B. innixus is supposed to occur in the east coast. B. auriporus has appressed microfibrils on pileus and it stains brick-red (slowly) when bruised while B. flaviporus is subtomentose to glabrous and does not stain when bruised. The distinction between B. flaviporus and B. innixus is not obvious to me and it suggests that they may be the same mushroom (if anyone know of molecular evidence or any other type of morphological evidence that can clearly distinguish these two mushrooms, please enlighten me about it!). In any case, all three species are edible.

North American Boletes: A Color Guide to the Fleshy Pored Mushrooms, pages 95, 112 and 123

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chicken of the woods

A couple of days ago, while picking up my wife and daughter at a friend's apartment complex, our friend pointed out that she had seen a large mushroom in the vicinity. To my surprise it was a nice cluster of "chicken" (this is one of the reasons why it is good to let your friends know you pick mushrooms!). Although I had never eaten one before, I knew that this mushroom is very easy to identify, that it does not have many lookalikes and that it is considered a "choice" edible (all great characteristics for those willing to experiment on mycophagy). Furthermore I had examined a few specimens of other varieties of Laetiporus on previous MAW forays (always with some degree of envy). Luckily, the specimen I found was very fresh and soft and was large enough for a dinner for 3 (~1 pound). Not only I took it home but I also decided to give it a try in the kitchen. Therefore, on this post I'll describe the mushroom  and provide my little recipe.

Location: Rollins Park, Rockville, MD
Date: 07/19/2011
Habitat: Gregarious (2 specimens growing next to each other), growing on wood (roots of an oak tree) as a cluster.

Pileus: upper surface is soft, velvety, wrinkled, moist, orange-yellow (specially near the margins), with overlapping fan-shaped pilei with blunt and wavy margins.
Hymenium: pore surface is white, pores are very small and round, soft, does not bruise, flesh is white, soft. Flavor and smell are non-distinctive.
Stipe: absent
Spore print: not obtained

This is a specimen of Laetiporus sulphureus var semialbinus (aka Laetiporus cincinnatus). The classical L. sulphureus has a nice bright yellow color, while the semialbinus variety tends to be orange-yellow. There are almost no look alikes and the ones that exist are either bitter or two hard to eat. The mushroom is better eaten when young and soft, but older specimens can be eaten too (only the borders will be soft enough). There are some reports of people with intolerance to this mushroom and, therefore, it is suggested that one should approaches it with care the first time in the kitchen. Apart from that, this is a great edible and a good start for those willing to approach mycophagy for the first time. On another note, this mushrooms comes back year after year (try to remember where you found it and you will have food for many years) but it causes brown cubical rot on the tree which eventually leads to its death.

Roody W.C., Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians, pages 378-9
Miller, O.K and Miller, H, A Falcon Guide to North American Mushrooms, page 428

"Chicken" Stroganoff Recipe
- chicken of the woods
- 2 cloves of garlic (minced or sliced)
- 1 can of heavy cream (or 1 cup)
- 1 onion (minced) (optional)
- 1 table spoon of paprika
- 1 or 2 table spoons of olive oil
- salt and pepper

1) Wash the mushroom. Break the chicken in 1 inch pieces with your hands (if you have never done that, you'll understand why this mushroom is called chicken) and discard any parts that are too hard.
2) In a deep pan, add olive oil and garlic. Fry it until garlic starts to release its smell.
3) Add onion and fry it for 3 minutes, or until it starts to get golden.
4) Add chicken and pan fry it for 3 or 4 minutes, mixing gently.
5) Add heavy cream and paprika and cook it for another 2 or 3 minutes (or until the mushroom is soft and cooked). Add water if you prefer it less thick.
6) Season it with salt and pepper.
7) Serve it with rice and enjoy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A purple mushroom

This little mushroom was growing alone on grass under oak trees near my home. It has a very nice dark purple color that is reminiscent of aubergines and has a nice chubby hemispheric cap that makes it a very cool specimen. Unfortunately it was damaged and very young when I found it.

Date: 07/17/2011
Location: Rollins Park, Rockville, MD
Habitat: Solitary, growing on grass under oak trees

Pileus diameter - 23.8 mm
Pileus height - 16.5 mm
Stipe lenght - 26 mm
Stipe diameter at apex - 12.5 mm
Stipe diameter at middle - 12.5 mm
Stipe diameter at base - 11.5 mm

Pileus - Purple, glabrous, dull, round, hemispheric. Margin is incurved. Smell is fruity and aromatic. Flesh is white. Taste is very bitter. Flesh does not stain when bruised.
Hymenium - White pore surface with tubes 1 mm long. Does not stain when bruised.
Stipe - solid, white flesh, purple cuticle, central, slightly tapered, inserted, does not stain. No ring or volva.
Spore print - not obtained.


This specimen looks like a Tylopilus plumbeoviolaceous. Apart from the odor, which I found to be quite agreable, the rest of the observed characteristics fit with Roody's description (p. 341). The mushroom is very bitter and is described as being inedible (I wonder who would try eating it anyway).  This is in contrast with the somewhat similar T. eximius (Lilac-brown Bolete), which is considered by some as being edible (although there are some reports of poisoning caused by this mushroom). The speckled stipe and  non-distinctive flavor allows one to easily distinguish it from T. plumbeoviolaceous. Other lookalikes which are also bitter are T. rubrobrunneus (Reddish brown bitter Bolete) and T. violantinctus (Pale Violet Bitter Bolete). The former develops olive-brown stains on the stalk and the later has a pale purplish to grayish violet or pale brown pileus.

Falcon Guide to North American Mushrooms, page 380
Mushroooms of West Virgina and the Central Appalachians, page 341

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer Mushrooms

Specimen found on grass
The weather has been very nice and fortunately we have had a lot of rain in the Rockville region over the last couple of weeks. Naturally, some of my friends are bragging about finding yellow chanterelles (C. cibarius), chicken (L. sulphureus), black staining polypores (M. giganteus) and a variety of boletes in the woods around Rockville. Today I went around the block (as usual) looking for mushrooms growing on lawns in the Rollins Park area. In a short 30 minutes walk I found a large variety of rusulas, Agaricus campestris, Amanita vaginata, Amanita flavorubens, Xerula megalospora, Phallus rubicundus, Tylopilus plumbeoviolaceous and a variety of boletes growing on grass and oak roots. One of the boletes I found looked specially nice (and potentially edible - did not stain when bruised and had a nice yellow pore surface without any tint of red or blue) and therefore I decided to face the challenge and try to identify it for a change.

So here it goes....

Date: 07/17/2011
Location: Rollins Park, Rockville, MD
Habitat: Solitary, growing on grass, under pine trees

Note that it does not stain
Pileus diameter - 51 x 46 mm
Pileus height - 17 mm
Stipe lenght - 55 mm
Stipe diameter at apex - 9.6 x 23 mm
Stipe diameter at middle - 9.6 x 16.5 mm
Stipe diameter at base - 9.6 x 11.6 mm

Pore surface depressing around stipe
Tubes are decurrent
Pileus - brown/red, dry, glabrous, cracked (specially near margin) and revealing light yellow flesh, smell is agreable, taste is mild and non-distinctive. Flesh is yellow and does not bruise.
Hymenium - tubes are bright yellow, depressed around the stipe, evenly distributed. Pores are angular and do not bruise. Tubes are around 6.8 mm long and decurrent (go down stipe 4 mm).
Stipe - central, tapered from base to apex, compressed, reticulated (bold brown reticulation)
Spore print - Not obtained

This seems to be a Xerocomus spadiceus, also known as Boletus spadiceus Fries. This mushrooms is considered to be a good edible which fruits between July and September under conifers and mixed woods.

Some other possibilities which look very similar are B. illudens and B. subtomentosus. Based on the reference provided below, B. illudens' pileus is described as being pale brownish yellow and becoming yellow-brown to pinkish cinnamon and the pore surface as sometimes bruising weakly blue or blue green (the specimen's pileus had tones of red on the cuticle which do not seem to fit with the description and, in my opinion, the pore surface did not stain). The fact that the pore surface does not stain eliminates B. subtomentosus, which stains greenish blue. Furthermore, B. subtomentosus is described as having a pileus that is olive-ochre and that becomes olive-brown with age. I did not observe any tone of green on the cuticle of this specimen.

Last, depending on how you describe the stipe (i.e. “yellow, bright yellow to golden yellow or yellow orange” versus “pallid, pale yellowish, cinnamon to reddish brown”) a few other similar mushrooms could be considered. For this identification I considered the stipe to be pale yellowish…otherwise I would have to call this bolete Boletus sp.

North American Boletes: A Color Guide to Fleshy Pored Mushrooms, page 158.