June 18, 2008

Another Day, Another Foray

Today was an excellent day for specimen collection. So good, in fact, that even after more than 5 hours of identification work I still haven't keyed out everything that our trio found. Oddly, neither Piptoporus nor Fomes have started producing new fruiting bodies yet. I did note new growth of Pycnoporus cinnibarinus at the same spot I last collected it in April. We also found an extremely strange polyporoid. Two career mycologists looked at it and were utterly stumped as to its identity. I've started cultures (hopefully; there's no guarantee it will grow in culture) and will take another pass at an identification tomorrow. I suspect this is one that I'll have to identify by molecular analysis, though. If it had gills I'd hazard a guess that it was a Pleurocybella, but it has pores.

Not pictured below are several other specimens of which the photos didn't come out well enough to reproduce, including too many Megacollybia to shake a stick at, a Ganoderma (it may be G. lucidum or G. resinaceum, most likely the latter) and Polyporus varius. I'll be attempting to culture the latter two as well.

Here are photos of some specimens that did come out well enough, though.

I'm fairly certain that this is Entoloma strictius. Entoloma is a tricky genus; keying out species takes a lot of work and even most general mushroom guides will only contain a couple of species. E. strictus has angular spores that can be either five or six-sided and a stipe that appears to be twisted. Anecdotally, I've read that individuals of this cosmopolitan species found north of the equator have stipes that twist to the right and those from the southern hemisphere have stipes that twist to the left. I have no idea whether or not it's true.
Gymnopilus sapineus is a decomposer of coniferous wood; this one is growing on fallen hemlock. Like other members of the genus, this mushroom has a distinctly yellow to orange-brown spore print. Buttons (which often remain under bark before expanding) have a yellow partial veil. Some members of the genus are reputed to be hallucinogens, but I don't know how anyone ever choked down enough of one of these horrendously bitter fungi in order to find that out. The taste doesn't appear to have deterred the little gastropod that was blissfully munching away on the pileus when I found this, though. I don't suppose that slugs have much of a sense of taste... or maybe it was just under the influence. The color of the gills didn't come out well in the second picture. They're really a mustard yellow with a brownish undertone.
Not exactly one an attractive mushroom, is it? This is Psathyrella delineata or, as we dubbed it today after getting it back to the lab, the nasty mushroom. It's not only ugly but also extremely fragile; the pileus will crumble to bits at the slightest provocation unless thoroughly dried. As it dries, it loses color and becomes buff and wrinkly and even uglier than it is in its natural state. The cap cuticle of this mushroom is cellular and so I was tempted to identify it as an Agrocybe, but the lack of an anulus, the crumbly consistency and spore morphology led me to conclude otherwise. I also recovered four small beetles from amongst the gills. Maybe tomorrow I'll have time to identify those as well. I'd prefer not collect this mushroom in the future, though, as handling it is really a pain in the ascomycete. It does, however, smell a bit like baby powder.
Coral fungi are among the most beautiful of the basidiomycetes and finding the first one of the season is a bit of a thrill for me (because I am a mushroom geek, in case that wasn't clear by now). Nonetheless, this one stumped me. It's absolutely a Ramaria and it lacks clamps on the basidia. It's in the subgenus Laeticolora. Beyond that I haven't been able to identify it. The spores are smooth (not echinulate, warted or striate), the outer surface of the stipe but not the context turns green-black in FeSO4 and the flesh is non-amyloid. No distinct odor but it has a mildly astringent taste. I can't key the thing to species. This one was growing under Fraxinus but who knows what it is mycorrhizal with. I saw a number of these in a very small area today.
Tyromyces chioneus, also known as the white cheese fungus. It's another polypore (Antrodia clade; I remembered!) and a useful culture for my study, but probably pretty boring otherwise. How about something not obvious from the photo, then? Fresh T. chioneus smells quite good, like it should be edible... but it tastes almost exactly like soap. Mmmmm, soap.
I also collected several beetles, as I began to mention, including four extra Bolitotherus cornutus in case my small stock of DNA runs out before I work out how to get the COI and wingless sequences.

Tomorrow, I'll finish my macroscopic fungi identifications and at least start on the beetles. I'll also try again for the sequences I just mentioned and perhaps start on extraction on Penthe pimelia... and perhaps on that very oddball polypore. If I have enough time, that is.

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