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Fall Fungus of the World

Despite being the genus of the common grocery store mushroom, Agaricus is a difficult genus. Some are edible, others are not. They are distinguished by somewhat nebulous characteristics such as odor, staining (changing color when bruised), and whether the ring points up like a sheath or down like a skirt when the mushoom is mature. The ones in this picture might be A. bitorquis, but they might not. They were growing between the pavers in the bike parking lot at the hospital, though, which is a pretty typical habitat for bitorquis.

This one is very probably Agaricus xanthodermus, with a bright yellow staining reaction at the base of the stalk and an unpleasant smell. It was growing in the grass a few meters down the bike trail.

These things look like puffballs until you get them up close. They are obviously heavier than puffballs. A knife reveals their identity as Scleroderma, probably citrinum.

A bright orange coral fungus growing on old wood. Probably Calocera viscosa. Despite its resemblence to Ramaria, the two genera are unrelated.

The genus Amanita contains the deadliest mushrooms in the world, as well as some of the best edibles. This is neither. A. fulva, the red-brown amanita, is not poisonous but is small (4-6 cm) and reportedly flavorless. But even this lowliest of Amanitas manages to look stately in a bit of sunlight.

In the forest near Hilversum, we found this egg-sized ball of slime sitting on the forest floor.

We dug around the base looking for mycelia, and found it was attached by a single thick cord of mycelia - very strange!

Breaking it open revealed its identity: an immature stinkhorn, genus Phallaceae, named for the unmistakable appearance of the mature form. Believe it or not, this ball of snot is edible and considered a delicacy in China.

These pretty fungi were about 10cm tall, growing in tremendous numbers on a bed of wood chips just outside of a park in De Bilt. I have no idea what they are.

I was hoping to find boletes on this excursion, but the closest I found were some small Suillus.

This weird boletus-type was small but tall (about 3cm x 10cm), on a wavy, fuzzy stalk. It appeared to be alone so I did not pick it, but I did peek under the cap to confirm that it had pores, which were white. My best guess is that it's a kind of Leccinum, a genus of boletus-types with scaly stalks.

More pretty unidentified small, pale mushrooms.

Minute mushroom, probably of the genus Marasmius, based on its ruffled edge. That's an acorn in the back for size comparison.

One of my favorite forest creatures, a slime mold! Despite their resemblence to fungal mycelia, we now understand that slime molds are not fungi. They have been temporarily rehoused in Protista, a taxonomic holding pen for a number of single-celled organisms which don't fit nicely into the other categories. The slime mold cycle of life starts as a single, amoeba-like cell that hunts around the forest floor for bacteria and other, even tinier microscopic food. Eventually, many of these individual cells will group together into the mass that we see here. The group will move together and seek out a warmer, drier place than the usual habitat of the single cells. Then the colony will appear to dry up, forming fuzzy stalks like tiny cattails (a photo of a slime mold in this stage is here. The fuzz is made of spores, which are released into the air, land on the ground, and form into new amoeboids. The slime mold gives us one example of how an essentially single-celled organism can get some benefit from congregating with its fellows for part of its life cycle - one step in settling down into multicellular life

Another of the stately Amanitas, probably A. citrina. If so, then it contains only minute amounts of amatoxin, the active ingredient in its deadly cousin, A. phalloides.

Amanita rubescens, the blusher. This is one of the most recognizable Amanitas, as the flesh stains bright red when cut. It contains a toxin which is destroyed by cooking, however, in the Netherlands its interior tends to be occupied by bugs and bacteria long before the cap even opens. Yet another Amanita best kept off the table

The Leccinum were out in force this year. There were 3 trees in this area that seemed to be sporting Leccinum. All keyed out to L. scabrum, the common birch bolete, but there seemed to be at least a couple of different types. Some were squat with a bulbous stem, others had a slender stalk. Some had pores attaching firmly to the stalk, some had a gap of a couple millimenters between the sponge of pores and the stalk. Most did not stain when cut, but some stained first orangy-pink and then indigo blue when cut (this is a characteristic of Leccinum versipelle, the orange birch bolete, but these were certainly not orange and didn't really look different from the non-staining examples). My Dutch book mentions that L. scabrum is probably a species complex, describing six or so species that all look the same. L. scabrum is a good edible - it tastes about like a B. edulis except that it turns dark gray when you cook it, so you have to prepare it in a way that it doesn't look like you're eating mashed newspaper. But it is great breaded and fried, or in sushi.

Lactarius species, possibly deliciosus, although normally it would have a colored rather than white stalk. L. delciosus was named by a naturalist who apparently smelled it and assumed it would taste good, possibly mistaking it for L. sanguifluus, a highly-regarded edible mushroom from southern Europe. Arora reports that it has a grainy texture and a bitter aftertaste. Like many Lactarius, the Russians preserve it by packing it in salt and eat it in the barren Russian winter.

Small, orange, wood-loving, unidentified.

Nothing complements mushrooms quite like dead things. The mushrooms are probably one of many minute Coprinus which frequent the Netherlands, possibly C. disseminatus. This is probably a rabbit skull, given the pattern of one premolar (missing), four big molars, and one small molar in the back.

A huge Coprinus, probably C. atramentarius. This one was growing alone in the grass, a couple meters from the treeline, and stood about 15cm tall.

A small, purple mushroom (maybe a Laccaria?) with a bonsai ivy.

A soggy cluster of polypores slowly decomposing this stump. Note that some are classically oyster-shaped, while others are growing nearly in columns. I have not been able to identify this polymorphic polypore, but I can classify this specimen as inedible... note the black mold growing on its edges. One of the most important rules for avoiding poisoning yourself when mushroom hunting is don't eat rotten food - food poisoning is far more likely than mushroom poisoning.

The ephemeral jelly fungus. There are several similar species of reddish-brown jellies, I have not tried to identify this one.

Possibly Laricifomes (Fomitopsis) officinalis, the agarikon. Paul Stamets points out a fungus that looks like this in his TED talk, saying that it is threatened due to its exclusive old growth forest habitat. Mushrooms Demystified, however, lists Fomitopsis officinalis as one of the three common causes of brown wood rot. The photos on the web for L. (F.) officinalis seem to have at least two distinct looks, so perhaps there's more than one species or subspecies which is identified by this moniker. A photo of the underside, for the identifiers.

Young polypore. The dew-like droplets are exuded by the fungus. The internet calls it dewatering, but I have not found an explanation for why they do this.

I have no guesses on the identity of this colorful wood-growing mushroom. 

The three chanterelles growing at Icicle this year: Cantharellus cibariusCantharellus subalbidus, and Gomphus floccosus: the yellow, white, and scaly chanterelles. The first two are edible, the third is considered edible by some but causes stomach upset in many people - making it a poor choice for dinner in my book. The yellows don't normally have folds growing on top, but they often do when they're at Icicle. The scalies are not always as obviously different from the yellows, either... sometimes the yellows are more orange, and sometimes the scalies are more yellow. The scalies nearly always have a deep conical shape, though, where the yellows are generally more or less flat, or maybe a bit indented in the middle.Young scalies are not always obviously indented, though, so it's better to leave very young chanterelles behind in areas with mixed yellows and scalies.

Could it be? The bases of the trees were loaded with huge, fluffy clusters of Grifola frondosa, also known as maitake. They have a hearty, woodsy flavor that goes well on a barbeque grill, but also served well in a stir fry. We took home just one of these clusters and had plenty left over.

Pores on the underside of G. frondosa.

Unfortunate for the tree, but fortunate for mushroom hunters. This G. frondosa on the ground is accompanied by its bright orange cousin, Laetiporus sulphureus. Both grow on dying trees, but it is difficult to say exactly what role the fungus plays in the death of the tree. The fungus may contribute to the slow decomposition of the tree's roots and heart wood, or may provide a kind of fungal life support for its host to keep it propped up and supporting the fungus a bit longer. In any case, trees with maitake at their base will often come down in a wind storm in subsequent years.

The grass in a few spots held some minute boletes. These were about two inches tall, and the caps varied in color from rosy pink to chartreuse. They might be Chalciporus piperatus (recently reclassified from Boletus piperatus), but I did not taste any of them to find out. The slight stickiness to the cap may point towards a small Suillus instead.

We found this gnat glued to the underside of a sticky Suillus. The slime of a Suillus is probably meant to be a deterrent to insect invasion, but seeing one killed rather than deterred was unusual. The macro lens, however, revealed a much more grim fate for the fungus gnat... note that there seem to be fungi sprouting from between the segments of its abdomen.

It could be just that the gnat had died there and the body was molding, but the next day we found this somewhat fresher example of the same thing. Here you can even see the droplet-like spore clusters on the ends of stalks sprouting from the gnat's head and abdomen. Both gnats died on the underside of a fungus, with their heads curled between their front legs. I expect this is an example of a fungal parasite, like the Cordycepswhich infects ants, possibly Entomophthora muscae.

I'm not sure of the identity of these large, bright mushrooms. They were gilled, with little fibrillous tufts on the cap. The gills, stalk, and veil were all about the same color as the cap. The veil was thin and seemed to remain mainly on the edge of the cap rather than the stalk. They closely resemble Phaeolepiota aurea, but lack the granules on the underside of the veil. It could be a Gymnopilus, but there was no indication of blue staining nor of any wood for it to grow on. There was no indication of the slime normally associated with Pholiota.

Another cluster of unidentified yellow mushrooms, possibly the same kind  although in a very different setting. These were on the forest floor under mixed deciduous trees, including a big elm.

Another mushroom which has proven surprisingly difficult to identify. These were small, around an inch or two tall, with a bright yellow cap and even brighter orange spots in the viscid layer of the cap. I think they were a type of Suillus, as there were similarly sized open yellow Suillusaround without the orange spots.

Tiny, butterfly-like mushroom, possibly a Mycena or Inocybe.

Russula species (There are several Russulas that come in this color, I have never had much luck distinguishing them)

White coral fungus, possibly Clavulina cristata

Believe it or not, there's more than one species of purple coral fungus. It is probably Clavulina amethystina or Clavaria zollingeri.

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