June 11, 2008

Yet More Fungi: Collected at Wachusett Today

Today's collecting was the best outing yet, not the least reason for which was the excellent company I enjoyed. When we arrived at Wachusett the temperature there hadn't yet hit 70°, a tremendous relief after yesterday's heat. Despite Worcester itself having taken a hit from a particularly nasty storm last night, Wachusett seems to have been missed completely. There was no sign of the big winds that knocked down tree limbs and knocked out power all over the city. We were in the field from 10:00 AM until just before 1:30 and it never made it to 80°. There was enough of a breeze to keep the bugs to a minimum, too.

Today marks my first collection of a bolete for the season, and an uncommon one at that. I didn't identify it myself. Instead, one of the post-docs here, an expert on the Boletales, was kind enough to do it and I learned a bit more about identifying boletes in the process. I also picked up a couple of fungivorous beetles, one of which may be Eleodes, but a positive ID will wait until later on that specimen.

The first bolete of 2008 is this attractive specimen, Boletus speciosus var brunneus. This one was growing in mixed beech and ash forest. Distinguishing characteristics include yellow reticulation all the way down the stipe until the pink tint begins. The cap turns dark olive in FeSO4 as well. Flesh color is almost as yellow as the pores but it rapidly turns azure blue when cut or bruised. Most blue stainers are not edible, but this one is reputed to be so. I'm not going to try it, though. As I may have mentioned, the only time I've ever poisoned myself was with a bolete that I found shortly after moving to Florida, and that one was also a blue-stainer.
This charming little wood decomposer is Polyporus alveolaris, also known as P. mori. It has relatively large hexagonal pores and grows on hardwood sticks. It's one of the most esthetically pleasing of the polyporoid fungi and I'll be including it when I start molecular work on these fungi. It's probably more interesting from an evolutionary standpoint than anything else. That makes it pretty interesting to me, but maybe not so much to you. Pretty, though.
This extremely slimy mushroom has become something of an object of contention here at the lab today. Both the pileus and stipe were so slippery that I could barely pick these things up. To my eye, the waxy, well-separated, thickened lamina, general coloration and growth habit, spores and overall sliminess tell me that it's a Hygrophorus and the post-doc who identified the bolete above agrees, going so far as to posit that it might be Hygrophorus chlorophana. I don't agree on the species; that one is usually deep yellow, not orange, although the mushroom is otherwise similar. I'm thinking it's something closer to H. psitticina, which are usually green — but sometimes other colors. A third labling thinks it's not Hygrophorus at all and swears that the spores look pigmented to him under the microscope (I don't see it). We may wind up having to extract DNA from this one to settle the speculation. I think there may be beer riding on it at this point. I will say this much; I'm going to win this bet with said labling, because the spore print he set up is turning out white as snow, which is in keeping with Hygrophorus, so neener neener.
One more shot of the contentious possible Hygrophorus, this one illustrating the gill color and structure.
EDIT: It is, after all, Hygrophorus chlorophana. No DNA extraction was necessary; H. chlorophana can sometimes be more orange than yellow, and the greenish bruising, particularly at the margin of the pileus and base of the stipe, is the final clue. Coolness.

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