Friday, July 29, 2011

Mushrooms this Week

These mushrooms have been fairly common at Westwood Hills Nature Center the past couple of weeks.  I think they are a species of Milk Caps, Lactarius subserifluus.  Beyond it's overall appearance and size, I'm basing my id on the following features:
  • tough stem (unusual for a Lactarius)
  • orangish hairs at the base of the stem
  • very minimal clear latex when cut
  • light yellow spore print
It's not a mushroom generally mentioned in field guides or mushroom websites (though there are similar species).  I found it at the Mushroom Expert site.

Malodorous Lepiota, Lepiota cristata.
Fairy Bonnet mushrooms, Coprinellus disseminatus.  They were growing by the hundreds at the base of a partially rotten tree, pictured below.
These mushrooms had a brown spore print, and were a little smelly (maybe paste-like).  I think a species of Inocybe.  They were growing on some bare compacted ground near a shed bordered by woods containing mostly Box Elder, Buckthorn, Elm, and closest, one Buckeye.
Megacollybia rodmani.  Growing on and near a rotten log, with a white spore print.
I don't know.  They were growing on a small, fallen branch and had a greyish, almost fuzzy stem.  It resembles the Fetid Marasmius, Micromphale foetidum, but didn't have a distinct odor, which is characteristic of the Fetid Marasmius.  But they were pretty dry when I found them, but still intact which is also feature often found in this group of mushrooms; maybe that's why they didn't have an odor.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rosette Lichen

Adele with Rosette Lichens (Physcia sp.)
We took a walk at Wolsfeld Woods SNA in June.  Adele found this piece of bark with Rosette Lichens (Physcia sp) on it.  My kids know I'm interested in lichens and like to point them out when they find them.  It's a little odd I'm sure.  If we're at a party or something and one of them exclaim "Daddy, I found a lichen!", I can almost hear the murmurs of plans to buy my poor children a Barbie doll or My Little Pony.
After some study I think the lichens in these pictures are either Hoary Rosette Lichens (P. aipolia), or Star Rosette Lichens (P. stellaris).  I'm undecided because my chemical tests (pretty essential to lichen ID) are homemade.  I'm leaning towards the Hoary Rosette Lichen because of the white maculae in the thallus (white spots under a dissecting scope) and the white pruinose of the apothecia (the dark brown disks; under a dissecting scope they have a white speckling or something).  Both lichens can show this feature, but the Hoary Rosette Lichen more so.  The crucial detail, I think, is whether the medulla (the inside of the lichen, which in this case is very thin and hard to see) turns yellow with the K chemical test.  I'm not sure, and I'm not sure of the reliability of the substance I used to perform the K test.  I used household lye, a suggested substitute in most lichen books for the K test, but did I mix it properly?
Whatever its identity; the lichen in question is still beautiful to look at, especially under a little magnification, and one of my kids found it for me.

And finally, lichens with the general appearance of the one pictured above are relatively common around the Twin Cities.  Maybe you can find one.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Little Brown Mushroom #7

LBMs found growing in the grass (except one)
I took a walk through the neighborhood this morning.  We had a heavy rain last night.  And this morning we had a lot of little brown mushrooms growing in the grass.  Listed below is what I found (use the following diagram for easier reference).

The most numerous mushrooms were species of Conocybe (labeled A in the diagram), also called Dunce Caps or Cone Heads.  This particular Dunce Cap is probably Conocybe albipes.  It's a common mushroom in lawns, but doesn't last long.  The stems are quite long compared to the cap size, and the whole mushroom is pretty fragile.  Another feature that sets them apart (if I can say that about a LBM) is the cinnamon brown gills and spores.

The greyish mushrooms (labeled B) are coprinoid mushrooms.  They had a black spore print.  Many coprinoid mushrooms dissolve into black goo, but these did not.  They were the only mushrooms not found in the grass.  They were growing out of some kind of fibrous erosion control material along the Mississippi River.

At the top of the picture (labeled C) are three examples of Marasmius oreades, often referred to as the Fairy Ring Mushroom, which is a bit misleading since other mushrooms grow in fairy rings, and M. oreades doesn't itself always grow in a ring.  It's a pretty tough mushroom with a white spore print.  It is also a common lawn mushroom, and relatively easy one to learn if you care to consult some field guides and go looking.

The small mushroom on the right (labeled D) I believe is a species of Panaeolus or Psathyrella.  It produced a dark brown spore print. 

And finally mushroom E.  It disappeared somewhere along the very short way from where I took the picture in the backyard to the house where I did the spore prints.  It was in the yard, maybe more will sprout up and I'll have a chance for another look.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mushrooms this Week

I found a number of these small mushrooms growing on a grassy trail at Afton State Park yesterday (where all of the following mushrooms were found).  I think it is a species of Conocybe based on its habitat, general appearance including rusty-brown gills, and fragility.  I collected one to do a spore print, but there was no trace of the mushroom once I had gotten home.

I brought a number of mushrooms home for spore prints, including the one pictured above.  None of the mushrooms I collected produced spore prints, which made identification harder, if not impossible; I have no idea what mushroom this is.  I found a number of them growing under some pine trees.
Perhaps a species of Amanita.  It had an indistinct to scaly cup (called a volva) at the base of the stem, a patch of tissue on the cap (which, along with the volva are the remains of the universal veil that envelopes a young Amanita.  If this is an Amanita I should add), and it had the overall appearance and stature of an Amanita.  Growing along side these mushrooms were ones with brown caps that looked remarkably similar, maybe a more mature specimen (pictured below).
I brought both of these home for a spore print, but like I said before, no luck, maybe it's the hot weather.  The lack of a spore print, and the fact that I noted details only in my head (which were later forgotten) made ID with any certainty difficult.  Since I've started taking pictures of mushrooms this summer, I've gotten out of the habit of taking notes, which I need to do; the camera doesn't usually record minute details, and it certainly doesn't record textures or odors.
I'm going to be bold and say that the mushrooms pictured above are Inocybe caesariata.  Bold because first, they are LBMs, and second because the genus Inocybe may contain over 400 species.  But it matches very well a description in the "National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mushrooms", including white margins on the gills (observed at home).  Again, I didn't get a spore print at home, but the picture above provided me with one; notice the brown dust on the grey leaf and the blade of grass over the lowest mushroom.  Below is another picture of I. caesariata.
I found a lot of Russulas yesterday.  Because of their brittle flesh, they often end up like the ones in the picture below.
I also found a number of boletes.  Most of them were well eaten by bugs and slugs, or moldy.  But I found a couple of small, fresh ones like the one pictured below.  The picture doesn't do it justice, they were so pristine and their caps had such a velvety quality to them.
More chanterelles were found.  Many were chewed up by bugs, but I collected a few.

And finally, a coral fungus growing in moss.  I don't know much about coral fungi (less than other fungi that is), but they are an attractive bunch, and a number of them are edible, so I'd like to spend more time learning about them.  Me and this fungus were featured on KSTP channel 5 news yesterday; it was part of a story on the reopening of state parks after the prolonged government shutdown in Minnesota ended. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bitter Bolete

I've spent a fair amount of time trying to identify this Tylopilus bolete to species.  It was fairly easy to get to the right genus; Tylopilus boletes have pinkish pores (boletes have spongy pores under their caps instead of gills), but getting it to the species level was another matter, the descriptions of a number of Tylopilus species matched the mushrooms I had collected.  To keep everything straight I made a chart.
Since these were older specimens, some of the color characteristics of the cap, pores, and stem weren't quite as useful.  I narrowed it down to two species, T. felleus and T. rubrobrunneus.  This was based on the large cap size (almost 20 cm in diameter), and the bitter taste.  Two other features helped narrow it down.
First, many boletes "bruise", turning different colors when handled or cut.  The pores of the mushrooms I collected slowly bruised from pinkish to a darker brownish pink (I guess).  The white flesh of the cap and stem didn't bruise or very, very slowly discolored.
Second, some boletes show reticulation along their stems, or a kind of net-like pattern.  T. felleus shows strong reticulation, while T. rubrobrunneus shows none or weak reticulation on the upper part of the stem.  I think the mushrooms I collected had only slight reticulation on the upper part of the stem (see picture above), leading me to identify these mushrooms as T. rubrobrunneus.

One other test I did was to apply KOH and ammonium to the surface and flesh of the cap.  I got a slight yellow stain on the surface of the cap, but no reaction on the flesh which more or less matches the reactions seen in T. rubrobrunneus.

I was really excited when I found these mushrooms, they were so big and the bugs hadn't gotten to them yet (which is  usually the state I find big boletes in) so I thought they might make a good meal.  But they are quite bitter in taste.  But I found the mental challenge of sorting through their identification to be a satisfying experience (and I found plenty of chanterelles to satisfy to palate).
Tylopilus rubrobrunnens
A final note, the name "Bitter Bolete" is the common name sometimes given to T. felleus.  I haven't come across any common names used for T. rubrobrunneus.  If you translated the scientific name it would roughly mean Red-brown Bolete, which isn't bad, but Bitter Bolete works and makes for a nice title.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mushrooms this Week - continued

There are a lot of mushrooms sprouting right now.  Below is more of what I've found over the past few days.
Chanterelles, Cantharellus cibarius.  The distinguishing feature of all species of chanterelles are the "false gills".  The underside of the cap is folded to resemble gills, but they aren't actually seperate structures from one another and from the underside of the cap as in mushrooms with "true gills".  It's taken me awhile to be sure that what I'm looking at are false gills instead of true gills.  Observing a lot of mushrooms has been the key.

I found many, many chanterelles on a walk today.  I took a few handfuls home to cook but left most behind to carry on their fungal life.
Pictured above is a species of Amanita.  Note the ring around the stalk, and the cup at the base.  Many Amanitas also have patches or warts on their caps, as this one does.  It's a fairly easy genus to recognize and a good one to learn because many of it's members are deadly.  Beyond knowing it as a genus, I'm not to familiar with the various species yet.
A species of Tylopilus, a member of the bolete family.  I found a couple of pretty impressive specimens whose caps measured almost 20 cm across.  I plan to post more on this mushroom soon.
I think these are Pine Spikes (genus Gomphidius or Chroogomphus), but I'm really not sure.   Another puzzle to work on, which is one of the things that make mushrooms so fun and interesting.

The following five photographs are all of different species of Russula.

A characteristics of Russulas that makes them fairly easy to identify after seeing them a few times is their brittle flesh.  The caps and gills crumble apart, and the stalks usually break apart cleanly like a piece of chalk.  They can be easy to recognize as a genus, but very difficult to identify to species. 

The next two pictures are of brown mushrooms I found growing in the grass.  I hope to post soon my attempts to identify them (and third mushroom found in my previous Mushrooms this Week post, look for the Little Brown Mushroom #7 post).  For now enjoy and see how many nondescript small to medium-sized brown mushrooms you can find in the grass.

And finally, two pictures of some of the countless small to very small mushrooms I've found.  Small, but just as interesting, intriguing, and fun to find as their larger cousins pictured in this post.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mushrooms this Week

Pictured above, Chanterelles, Cantharellus cibarius. 
A species of Russula.
 A species of Amanita
 Hmmm . . .
 A Bird's Nest Fungus Cyathus striatus.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Sedge Family

Sedges are everywhere, but largely overlooked.  They easily blend into the background, but I think they are appealing if you look closely.  The seeds are probably the best part of a sedge (in my opinion).  This photo is of the seeds of an unknown sedge (genus Carex), with cattail leaves in the background.  I hope you'll find this picture pleasing to the eye.

As I said, sedges are everywhere.  Find a grassy looking plant with sort of spiky seeds, and stems that are triangular (sedges have edges) and you have probably found a sedge.  When you start looking, you'll find them everywhere, and then you can start thinking about why they are so prevalent, but mostly unknown to most of us.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Enchanter's Nightshade

Enchanter's Nightshade - Circaea lutetiana
An impressive name for a such a small, inconspicuous plant.  At it's tallest it reaches about 2 feet, and it's flowers are under a quarter of an inch wide.  In the United States it's a native plant of eastern woodlands, but it's also found in Eurasia.  It's tiny white flowers have only two petals, though they are deeply notched and appear to have four petals if you don't look closely.  It's fairly uncommon for a flower to only have two petals; it's the only one in Minnesota, and probably the only one in the eastern US.  The flowers develop into little burs.

Despite it's common name, it's not actually in the Nightshade family (Solanaceae), which contains many famous and infamous plants (tomato, potato, belladonna, and tobacco to name a few).  It's a member of the Evening Primrose family(Onagraceae) which is a family of plants that in general are not very famous or infamous.

This plant was supposedly one used by the sorceress Circe of Greek mythology to perform magic.  Both the common name, Enchanter's Nightshade, and the genus name, Circaea, come from this association.  One thing Circe was known for was turning men into animals.