July 11, 2008

Fungi from Worcester

I went collecting with a couple of the lablings today. I won't divulge exactly where to keep life simple, but all of the following fungi were found inside Worcester's city limits. One of them, as it turned out, is considered rare. I couldn't find much information about that one aside from basic morphological data. Even the growing season I found listed for it in several authorities is incorrect; they state that it appears in August. The one I found today, however, has to be several days old. It's stipe had already been largely hollowed out by Diptera larvae. The seasonal information on Sarcodon underwoodii should thus be noted as the first appearance being in July in the northern extent of its range. It may be even earlier further south.

Anyhow, denizens of Wormtown, these are the fungi in your neighborhood.

Yet another Amanita sp. I couldn't identify. I think that when I have some time, I'm going to take all of the unidentified Amanitas I've amassed over the last year and do a big sequencing run with them. I hate not having an answer.
Unfortunately, the second image here is a little over-exposed. The pore surface on this mushroom is actually the color of honey. It's Boletus roxanae, a mycorrhizal bolete of hardwoods. The context of this bolete, unlike many others, does not change color when the mushroom is cut open. It also shows no change in color in FeSO4 but a pale rusty red-orange in 2% KOH. The pores do not change color when bruised. It's edible, but it's small. You'd need to find a lot of them to make it worthwhile.
Clavulinopsis fusiformis goes by several common names, including golden spindle and fairy fingers. It can be found in wet areas where it may either be a saprobe or mycorrhizal with grasses. Beyond being colorful, an anti-tumor compound can be refined from it. Luckily I had no tumors today.
Craterellus fallax is also called the black trumpet chanterelle, a common name it shares with the scarcer C. cornucopioides. Both are among the tastiest of mushrooms and the most readily apparent difference between the two species is that C. cornucopioides retains a white to light gray fertile surface throughout the life of the fruiting body. C. fallax develops a salmon blush in older specimens. Both are quite edible and only a hardcore mushroom geek such as myself should burn any time worrying about the difference between the two. I only saw a few very small specimens today, but clearly the season has started for these. All we need is one more good rain and I'll be bringing home bags full of these delicacies.
These tiny mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of Hygrocybe cantharellus, the chanterelle waxy cap. They get no larger than 1 cm across; the two smaller specimens in the shot were a mere 5 mm in diameter. They can be easily confused with species like H. miniata, but H. cantharellus has deeply decurrent yellow gills. Their edibility is unknown, and as tiny as they are I can understand why nobody has bothered to find out. Most Hygrocybe and Hygrophorus mushrooms are flavorless, regardless of how colorful they are. Some are poisonous, too.
Leccinum scabrum is one of the most common species in its genus. It associates with a variety of hardwoods and is widespread and also edible. When cut open, it turns pink very slowly, and then suddenly goes brown in the pileus and gray in the stipe. Finally it turns black. The context turns a slate gray color in FeSO4 and red in KOH. Once one learns what to look for, recognizing members of the genus Leccinum is quite easy; it's getting to the species that's difficult. However, none are dangerous. At worst, an inedible Leccinum is simply one that tastes bad. None has been known to cause serious injury or death; some are very bitter. This wouldn't be a bad genus for a beginner to become better acquainted with.
This is the rare Sarcodon underwoodii of which I wrote above. When I saw it in the field, I assumed it was some sort of Albatrellus, a genus of stipitate polypores. It wasn't until I got it back to the lab and had a close look that I realized how wrong I was.
It's hard to tell from this photo, but the fertile surface (where spores are made) of Sarcodon isn't pores but tiny teeth, each of which is about 1 mm long and .35 mm wide in the species shown. The spores are odd looking, too. They're strongly tuberculate, which means they essentially look like popcorn, each 7 microns by 5 microns. Having examined this specimen very carefully, I'm quite certain of my identification, and next week I plan on taking rDNA sequences for the first time.
Strobilomyces is a small genus, at least in North America, with three commonly occurring species: S. floccopus, S. dryophilus and S. confusus. The first two can be distinguished by the color of the pore surface; it's white in floccopus and yellow in dryophilus. The context of both of those species turns black when exposed to the air. S. confusus has a white pore surface, like S. floccopus, but its context turns red when cut. Of the three species, only S. floccopus is a good edible; the other two are very bitter. The one in this photo is S. confusus, which is too bad because I quite like Strobilomyces floccopus. I used to find a good number of them in central Florida, but since then I only find one or two at a time on a good day. It doesn't help that all three species seem to prefer to grow right up against the bases of trees, making them hard to see. Because of their shaggy appearance, all three species are commonly known as "the old man of the woods." Sometimes I'm called that, too, but nobody has yet confused me with a Strobilomyces.
And there you have it, just a few of the fungi found in Worcester when you know where to look.

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