I spent most of my energy on looking for beetle-infested polypores during yesterday's visit to my field site at Wachusett Mountain. Nonetheless, I saw a number of interesting specimens among the prolific mycofauna and collected a few. This included a couple of very interesting and rarely collected fungi and one truly excellent edible. Two of the fungi presented here, Nyctalis agaricoides and Elaphocordyceps ophioglossoides, specialize in eating other fungi. Cannibal fungi and tasty Lactarius are automatically interesting things, but that would leave out an oddball Cortinarius species known only from Massachusetts that I also present here. The flies were interesting, too, but I mean that in a different way. A species of brown fly with white-banded wings kept the foray particularly exciting as they bit chunks out of exposed skin, undeterred by repeated application of DEET. Yes, it hurt. The collections made yesterday are almost worth it, though.
Nikoh N and T Fukatsu. 2000. Interkingdom Host Jumping Underground: Phylogenetic Analysis of Entomoparasitic Fungi of the Genus Cordyceps. Molecular Biology and Evolution 17:629-638In the time intervening, and based partly upon their work, the genus Cordyceps has been split up quite a bit. Check out Joey Spatafora's exhaustive website on the group of fascinating fungi, An Electronic Monograph of Cordyceps and Related Fungi, for more about the current state of knowledge about these intriguing parasites.
|Moving away now from fungus that might eat you, here's a fungus that's good to eat. This is Lactarius volemus, which I consider a choice edible. I've collected and eaten these before; the last time was in Florida in 2002. Because of color variation I wound up collecting several of these yesterday, so half went into the dehydrator for archiving and the other half came home with me and wound up in a marsala sauce. They were excellent, far better than I remembered them from the last time I tried them.|