May 24, 2008

Found Fungi from the South Slope of Mount Wachusett

I went out collecting at Wachusett yesterday. The season is just getting started, so there wasn't a lot fruiting yet. I think we just need one more heavy rain and stuff will be popping everywhere. In the meantime, a few things were poking out of ground and wood. I saved the best for last in the table below. The first couple of species are common; anyone whose been into the woods has probably seen them even if they didn't know what they were looking at. The last one, though, isn't one that most people get to see and despite growing in some pretty nasty muck it's the most attractive of the bunch in my opinion.

A lonely specimen of Entoloma vernum, the only one I found yesterday. Actually, calling it E. vernum is a slight cop-out. The systematics of this genus are still rather confused, so it's probably more fitting to talk about species complexes rather than individual species. This one, like others in the complex, has irregularly hexagonal spores that are pink in deposit and lamina which are free or nearly so. It's poisonous, too. Nice umbo, though. This one had mycelium penetrating through some buried and highly decomposed wood, but I couldn't tell what kind. The are in which I found it growing contained a mixture of beech and a couple of different species of oak.
Formerly classified as Pholiota mutabilis, this fungus is now part of a smaller genus and is properly known as Kuehneromyces mutabilis. Those in these photos were growing on a fallen hemlock. In the first shot, they haven't fully emerged from under the bark yet. When I peeled away the bark, though, I was surprised at how many of the fruiting bodies were clustered together. The caps are slightly viscid to tacky, and so they look a bit like slugs before they break out of the bark and expand. They're also hygrophanous, which is a fancy way of saying they change color as they lose or absorb water. In these shots, they're a little on the dry side, so they've lost some of their color. The lighter zone starts at the center of the cap and expands to the margin of the pileus as the mushroom dries out.
This, too, is Kuehneromyces mutabilis, but these smaller specimens haven't started drying out yet and so maintain their original color. The only difference between this mushroom and the ones above are that these were growing in a shaded area at the base of the hemlock trunk; those above were on top of the trunk and so received a lot more sunlight. K. mutabilis is supposed to be a passable edible, but it's also very easily confused with poisonous Galerina spp., so I wouldn't advise trying it unless you've very thoroughly identified the mushroom. Galerina poisoning can be lethal and, as is the case with most deadly mushrooms, it's a particularly unpleasant way to go.
This cheerful muck-lover is Mitrula elegans, sometimes called the matchstick fungus for pretty obvious reasons. They grow in very wet places where a lot of decaying plant matter is available and where there's standing water very nearby. I found these growing in a few mud puddles near a beaver dam. You can get an idea of the scale of these fruiting bodies from the photo. Despite their small size, their bright colors make these hard to miss. On the other hand, their propensity for growing in mucky, mosquito-infested places prevents sane people from finding them most of the time. It takes a mad mycologist to bother going into the sorts of places where M. elegans is likely to spring up, but it's a rewarding thing to find significant fruitings of the little matchsticks. While probably not a rare fungus, they are not often available for culturing. I brought some "home" with me for one of my lablings to do just that with them.

Sphere: Related Content