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I'm trying to identify this mushroom my sister found at her campus' lawn. It is brown, looks somewhat like a turtle or a brain and is growing inside of a dead tree trunk. Geographically the campus is in Haifa, Israel in case that helps. Any ideas?
Possible Species: California Fungi - Gymnopilus luteofolius
The Trees that are Key for Finding Morel Mushrooms
It may be strange to hear certain kinds of trees being associated with morel mushrooms, but these great mushroom morsels are most often found under or close to some species of trees. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t occasionally found near other trees, but they just aren’t as common as with the ‘indicator’ trees.
In general, the trees to look for are firs and pines. More specifically, morel mushrooms tend to be especially dense in a mixed forest of Ponderosa or Sugar pine, and Douglas or Shasta fir. The decaying needles give the needed nutrition for the developing mushrooms. In addition, these trees grow in soil that has the same traits that morels especially love.
These fungi also prefer areas that have been disturbed within the past few years. They often will grow densely along logging roads deer trails, and burned over areas. This is partly because the disturbed ground allows the tiny spores to have a way to get directly to the dirt. The pines and firs then protect the areas from the harshest weather that might blow the spores away, or prevent them from growing.
Morels are also most common between elevations of 4,000 and 6,000 feet, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, which is where these indicator trees like to grow. Firs are particularly useful because they provide shade as well as nutrients, and prevent the mushrooms from drying out, and they require early year moisture in order to grow well, just as the morels do.
Further, morels are more often found near fir logs and under dead fir branches or trees. Again, this shelters the developing spores from the sun, wind, and the worst of the snow. It is no accident that areas with plenty of deadfall often yield the greatest numbers of morel mushrooms.
A family of four in Oregon went camping in such a forest in the 90s, not expecting to find mushrooms, and not expecting to even look for them since both children were young. According to the father, “We knew we were in a good place when we found several small morels growing in a rather rocky area bordered on one side by firs, and on the other by aspen.”
He was quite right. Over the course of 2 days, spending about 4-5 hours total, they filled three 5-gallon buckets full of morels. Most of these were found in a mixed pine and fir forest, with most of the morels being found under firs or fir deadfall. The children actually helped a great deal. They were built closer to the ground and could see under fir trees more easily.
From that time, the family always looked for morels in the early year, anytime they were in a mixed fir forest, and have never been disappointed at the morel harvest.
If you are in a fir forest in May or June, keep your eyes open for morel mushrooms. You might be surprised at how many you can find in a short period.
Found on trees and fallen logs, these mushrooms have a large white to tan colored cap shaped like an oyster shell. The short stems are off-center with gills running down the sides of them. Typically they are found in clusters dense enough that the caps overlap one another.
Named for the bright red-orange caps and sulfur colored pore surfaces, this mushroom is also called Chicken of the Woods. It has no stems. The caps attach directly to the tree or log in large overlapping groups of caps up to a foot wide.
Five Different Examples
Below are five different mushroom examples. Follow along and apply this type of analysis to your own finds!
The book I referenced for some of these is the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (National Audubon Society Field Guides (Hardcover)) . Pick up a highly rated guidebook for your region if you don't already have one.
I found all of these mushrooms in New Hampshire or Vermont.
Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces floccopus)
No, it's not that weird guy who lives in the forest behind your local bike path. This is a good beginner mushroom.
Gills: None. A spongy layer of pores was on the underside of the cap instead.
Cap/stem: Distinct from each other, with white and gray coloring. The cap is convex, with a layer of woolly scales on the top.
Spore color: Unknown
Bruising: Reddish at first, then slowly turning to black.
Habitat: I picked this just off a trail in a mixed hardwood forest. It was growing alone on the ground, not on a tree.
Time of year: Late August
Easy to identify due to its unique cap and the presence of pores, this is a great example of a bolete. Boletes are defined as having a separate cap and stem with a spongy surface of pores. To be sure, I checked for the appropriate colors after bruising.
Chanterelle (Cantharellus sp.)
It's definitely worth knowing how to identify the delicious chanterelle. See this page on chanterelle mushroom identification for a more in-depth article.
Gills: None. Instead there were wrinkled folds known as "false gills". This is very important to look for with chanterelle identification. The pic to the right is a good example.
Cap/stem: The caps were slightly vase shaped. The stems had no bulb or ring and were not hollow. Both were an orange-yellow color.
Spore color: Unknown
Habitat: On the ground at the edge of a trail in a mixed hardwood forest. I found more than one, but they did not grow in clusters.
Time of year: August
Smell/taste: They smelled slightly fruity/flowery.
The false gills, and the fact that they weren't growing in clusters, led me to believe these were chanterelles and not poisonous jack o'lanterns. I did eat these, and they tasted great!
Northern Tooth (Climacodon septentrionale)
This was a fun surprise. When I saw it from the road it looked like an oyster mushroom. A closer examination revealed something else!
Gills: None. Instead there were small "teeth", or spines, hanging from the underside of the cap. This made identification fairly easy.
Cap/stem: No stem. The caps were a series of overlapping, shelf-like fruiting bodies. They were whitish and very tough.
Spore color: Unknown
Habitat: Found growing on a dying maple tree.
Time of year: September
There aren't as many mushrooms with teeth as there are with gills, and fewer still that grow on trees. The other clue here is habitat, as I found it growing on a dying maple. The northern tooth is a parasite that rots the heartwood of maple trees.
Below is a close-up of the tiny teeth.
Russula (Russula emetica?)
Gills: Gills were white and attached to the stem.
Cap/stem: Cap was red on top and slightly upturned. The stem was white with no ring.
Spore color: Spore print was whitish.
Habitat: Found growing on the ground among leaf litter in a mixed hardwood forest.
Time of year: September
Smell/taste: Smelled fruity but the taste was very bitter.
The spore print, white gills, and red/white color combination indicates a mushroom in the Russula genus. Yet which one? Russula mushroom identification is very difficult, with microscopic information sometimes needed. I decided on one of the more common species that fit the description, Russula emetica.
Honey Fungus (probably Armillaria mellea)
My apologies for the washed out picture.
Gills: Brownish and attached to the stem.
Cap/stem: The caps were slightly convex with a lightish brown color. The stems had a ring around them and were brown-white.
Spore color: White
Habitat: Growing in a thick cluster on the roots of an overturned oak tree.
Time of year: July
Although these mushrooms matched all the characteristics of a honey fungus, I still took a spore print. A white spore print is an essential part of honey fungus identification.
I didn't want to bore you with too much detail, but you can see the kinds of observations that you need for mushroom identification. Try to note all that you can when in the woods. Now go out there and start observing your own mushrooms. Let me know how it goes!
Dead Man's Fingers
"A rather anatomical presentation" is how Timothy James, a mycologist at the University of Michigan, described these funky fungi.
Called dead man's fingers, these organisms grip dead or stressed trees, excrete a digestive enzyme into them, and then absorb the rotting material as energy.
The resulting mushrooms pop up out of the ground like zombie fingers, especially in areas near dead wood. (Also see: "Phallus Mushroom Found in Lam Dong, Vietnam.")
So horror movie props literally grow on trees.
#1. Bearded Tooth
Known also as Lion’s Mane, Hedgehog and Bear’s Heads, Bearded Tooth mushrooms are a tasty treat. They resemble crab meat both in texture and taste. This type of edible mushrooms grows in shady forests. You can usually see them in white strand groupings that resemble more like fur.
Bearded Tooth mushrooms have a distinctive appearance. They look like cascading white icicles that can grow up to ten inches wide. Their icicles may grow up to 2.75 inches long. When young, you can see Bearded Tooth mushrooms in pure white. They turn yellow with age. Regardless of their color, their flesh remains firm and full of flavor.
Bearded Tooth Mushroom does not resemble any other poisonous or non-poisonous mushroom. When you find one, you can be confident that it is the Bearded Tooth you are looking for.
Bearded Tooth mushrooms tend to grow higher up. You can rarely see them growing around the base of trees. If you focus on searching mushrooms on the ground, you might miss getting these tasty treats.
The Bearded Tooth is a popular medicinal mushroom. It a known cure for stomach problems. Modern research also suggests that Bearded Tooth mushrooms have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. They may also support the immune system in fighting against certain types of cancers.
You can grow Bearded Tooth mushrooms in spawn plugs. These are small wooden dowels that have the spawn. You’ll need to drill holes in oak logs, or beech then pounds the dowels into the holes. Using this method, it could take several months before your first harvest.
Alternatively, you may also grow Bearded Tooth Mushroom using commercial kits. These kits are already infused and ready to produce in a matter of weeks. Between these two methods, you get more mushrooms over several years with spawn plugs.
#2. Chicken of the Woods
Chicken of the Woods are mushrooms known for their meaty and lemony taste. Some people also say that this kind of mushroom tastes like its namesake, a chicken. Others people also describe the flavor as being like that of a lobster or crab. If you have not yet tasted this kind of edible mushroom, it’s up for you to judge. Nevertheless, Chicken of the Woods can be a great substitute for meat in a wide range of dishes.
One of the notable features of Chicken of the Woods mushroom is its rubbery and moist body. It may come in sulfur-yellow to orange in color. The individual shelves of this type of mushroom can grow between five and 25 centimeters across. This edible mushroom grows in brackets, some as large as 100 pounds. As it gets old, these brackets become brittle, pale and mildly pungent.
Chicken of the Woods commonly grows on woods of trees such as oak, yew, eucalyptus, willow, and chestnut. You can also find it growing on or at the base of dying or dead trees, but never in fields or on the ground. Sometimes, these mushrooms come back year after year on the same spot. They thrive from late spring to early autumn.
There are some health benefits from eating Chicken of the Woods mushrooms. It contains antioxidants which are great for our overall health. Some studies also suggest that it fights against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. A study also shows that it is the most active inhibitor of the HIV-1 reverse transcriptase.
Chicken of the Woods may sometimes cause gastric distress with some people. To avoid stomach problems the first time you try it, only taste a small piece and see how it will affect you. Also, avoid Chicken of the Woods that grows on conifers, cedar trees, and eucalyptus. Mushrooms that grow on these trees may have toxic components.
I know I’ll catch a little flak for illustrating them eaten raw. Plenty of mushroomers poo-poo eating wild mushrooms raw. This is partly since mushrooms are composed of chitin, which is difficult to digest, and partly because no one wants to get sick or poisoned.
Cooking helps break things down, as well as making many mushrooms (like morels and Leccinums) safer to eat. There are few mushrooms I’ll eat raw, but I do like the occasional porcini sliced thin with salt and olive oil if I find a clean, bug-less button-a fun way to celebrate a rare find.
I’m not here to enter the raw vs. cooked mushroom debate. It’s indisputable that cooking mushrooms makes them easier to digest, and safer to consume. I will say though, that I’ve eaten at least half a pound of these myself over the past two years raw, sliced thin in salads, on toast, on pasta, and plenty of other ways, and had no ill effects.
Of course, the possibility of them doing something weird like concentrating chemicals in your body over years and years like Gyromitra species exists, I suppose, but you could also argue juniper berries, and bay leaves are toxic too, if you consume enough. All things in moderation.
Shaved on beef tartare has been my favorite preparation so far. See a recipe for that HERE .
6. Witch’s butter (Tremella mesenterica)
|Scientific Name||Tremella mesenterica|
|Common Name||Witch’s butter, Yellow brain, Golden jelly fungus, Yellow trembler|
Tremella mesenterica is a jelly fungus. Its fruiting body has an irregular shape and consists of a gelatinous orange-yellow mass that has a lobed surface and which is oily or slimy when moist. When dries, these turn to an orange or dark reddish color.
It grows in temperate and tropical regions that include North, and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia and can be seen in deciduous and mixed forests.
Due to its strange appearance and characteristics, this fungus has earned the name “witch’s butter” but is also commonly known as the yellow brain, yellow trembler, or golden jelly fungus.
Although apparently witch’s butter grows on dead wood, it is actually a parasite of another wood-decomposing fungus.
Unlike many mushrooms that only produce fruiting bodies in a particular season, tremella mesenterica develops fruiting bodies along the year, typically after rains, and throughout wet periods.
Despite its weird looks, witch’s butter is considered non-poisonous and generally edible but it is far from being deemed a delicacy. Many describe this fungus as flavorless.
How to Find Fungi to Photograph
Head into a meadow or wooded area.
More than 80% of fungi grow around trees, so woodlands are an ideal place to find mushrooms and other fungi. They tend to like darkness, dampness, rotting wood, and fallen leaves. Try looking in the crevices of dead trees and in the undergrowth of the forest.
Some species of fungi only grow around specific kinds of trees, which they attach themselves to. For instance, chanterelles grow around birch, pine, oak, and beech trees. Similarly, some species (like the Fairy Ring Toadstool) only grow in open fields or meadows. In other words, if you’re looking for a certain kind of fungi, be sure to research where that species grows before you head out.
When you find a mushroom, keep looking around for more.
In most cases, a single mushroom is only the tip of the iceberg. If you find one, you’re likely to find many more close by. That’s because mushrooms are typically connected underground. The largest part of the fungus is hidden under the soil, and mushrooms are just the flowering part of this giant, underground fungus.
If you’ve spotted a mushroom, then, take time to search the area for others. You’re likely to find more, and perhaps they’ll be more striking than the first one you found.
Go with an experienced mushroom hunter.
If you’re having trouble finding fungi, consider joining a local mushroom club or contacting a veteran mushroom hunter to guide your search. While mushroom hunters may not know where the most bizarre, inedible fungus might be, they’ll at least help you find “regular” mushrooms to photograph.
10 Fly Amanita (Amanita muscaria) – world's most famous mushroom
Also known as the fly Agaric or the fly Amanita, the Amanita muscaria is a poisonous and psychoactive basidiomycete fungi, which is one of many in the genus Amanita. There are several subspecies, and each of them has a different cap color. These include the yellow-range flavivolata guessowii, formosa, the pink persicina, and the brown regalis (although it is now considered a separate species).
Fly Agaric's are one of the most recognizable and widely encountered in popular culture. They have been featured in children's books, films, garden ornaments, greeting cards, and computer games. This toadstool is associated with the famous book turned movie, Alice in Wonderland the mushroom in Super Mario Bros., and more. It is also known as the mushroom of flies from due to Albertus Magnus' work in De vegetabilibus where he stated, “It is called the mushroom of flies, because crushed in milk it kills flies”.