August 11, 2008

Pigs' Ears from Pennsylvania: MSA Foray Finds

These are a few of the fungi I collected during yesterday's Mycological Society of America foray in Central Pennsylvania. It's only about half. Other people made some even more interesting finds. One lucky collector came up with a beautiful Sparassis crispa, but to me the most unusual specimen I saw in the lab was Amanita jacksonii, which I had thought to be an exclusively southern species. In fact, David Geiser mentioned that he's never seen one in Pennsylvania in the years he's been collecting here. I'd only seen the species in Florida previously, where it's fairly common (I've collected them on the Florida State University campus in the quad in front of the College of Business).

I came up with some Gomphus clavatus, which until yesterday I had seen only on the west coast. Perhaps certain basidiomycetes need a GPS even more than I do. They seem to be getting lost!

First up is a particularly beautiful Amanita close to A. brunnescens. I'm not sure of the exact species, but people far more experienced than I advised that it's likely the best identification we'll get for this one without sequencing it and I'm unlikely to have time to do that in the near future. Whatever the exact species might be, though, the pellis is a particularly rich brown, the stipe does bruise slightly brown, and the mushroom has a faint odor of raw potato. The bulb is cleft, too, so it could well just be a particularly dark-pigmented A. brunnescens.
This is admittedly not going to be a fungus that most people will gasp over in astonishment. Coltricia montagnei is much like the Coltricia cinnamomea I found at Wachusett almost two weeks ago, but the one you're seeing here is the largest Coltricia I've ever seen. This specimen was just over four inches in diameter, making it more of a fairy sofa than a fairy stool. When I first flipped it over to see if it was yet another of the endless Phellodon sp. that were everywhere in the woods, I thought it might be some deformed Suillus fruiting body... until I looked at its spores. A drop of KOH turned the surface black instantly, too.
I believed that Gomphus clavatus, also known as the pig's ear chanterelle, was a western species, but here it is in Pennsylvania. These are young specimens. The more aged fruiting bodies nearby had lost all violet tones and looked a god deal more like pigs' ears than do the ones in this photo.
All Doctor Who fans should appreciate this little ascomycete, Leotia viscosa, also called the green jelly baby. It's not quite as common as its pallid yellow sibling species, Leotia lubrica, but I think it's far more esthetically appealing.
The polypore Phaeolus schweinitzii, on the other hand, is beloved only by certain slightly mad mycologists. Wrap your kitchen sponge in felt, soak it in water and give it a good squeeze and you'll know what this fungus feels like in one's hand. It readily incorporates bits of twigs, leaves, grass and anything else that gets in its way as the fruiting body expands, and despite its squishy consistency these beasts can get quite large. I found another specimen in addition to the one in this photo; my second collection was a foot in diameter. P. schweinitzii is not considered edible, but some people do extract dye from it, hence its common name of "dye polypore." Not even beetles seem tempted by this one, although I suppose I'll need to collect more of these spongy, oozy polypores before knowing whether that's always true. I didn't find any on yesterday's collections, though.
Among the fungi I found yesterday but don't show here are Cantharellus cibarius and C. ignicolor (too few to bother bringing home, though), a green-brown Hygrophorus with both stipe and cap covered with slippery slime, a very large Paxillus atrotomentosus that smelled quite spicy after landing on the dryer (it's not supposed to, but even I could smell this one!), a couple more Elaphocordyceps ophioglossoides, a proliferation of Geoglossum sp., numerous Spathularia, and probably a number of things I'm forgetting entirely. I also came up with Ganoderma tsuga, but I only wanted the Bolitotherus cornutus that were living in it. Elisabet, who had never seen it outside of a herbarium before, took the fruiting bodies for further study.

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