Friday, May 27, 2011

Know Your Mushrooms?

There are many skills in life I wish I possessed-- the ability to sing, a better understanding of the stock market, and the capacity to identify wild mushrooms.  Sadly, I suspect I won't develop any of these talents in my lifetime.

I remember my grandfather roaming the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains behind his house to forage for wild mushrooms.  He'd leave the house with a golf club, a single golf ball, and a brown bag.  He usually came back with a dripping honeycomb from his neighbor's beehive and a bag full of mushrooms.  At the time, I  was much more excited by the idea of chomping down on a thick slab on honeycomb slathered onto the bottom half of one of my grandmother's homemade rolls.  Today I wonder what kind of mushrooms he used to collect and whether or not he could answer this question:

Is this a morel mushroom I found growing in my backyard?
Wild mushroom growing at the base of my tomato patch, May 2011.

Because I frequently have several curious little people running around my backyard, I felt I had no choice but to uproot this happy little fungus before figuring out what it was.  Here's a second, closer view of it.  (This is a family-friendly blog so I am resisting the urge to write phallic jokes.  Feel free to invent your own.)  But if you can identify this mushroom, please write to me and tell me what it is!

My backyard is home to several different types of mushrooms-- all of them unfamiliar to me.  I suppose I should start trying to identify them, but frankly it's a lot easier to just let my daughters stomp on them before throwing the pieces into the yard waste bin.  I suspect that mushroom-lovers will flinch at my heartlessness treatment of these beautiful fungi, but when it comes to mushrooms, I believe it's better to be safe than sorry, especially with children around.  I must admit that I feel bad about my callous attitude towards mushrooms-- at least until I see the gleaming eyes of one of my sweet daughters gleefully smashing these delicate specimens to smithereens. 


  1. That is not a true Morel. It looks sketchy to me.

  2. Thanks! It didn't look quite right to me, but I must admit that it makes me feel better to have destroyed a "sketchy" mushroom instead of a "delicious" one.

  3. You have two species with very interesting spore propagation methods.
    Suspect # 1 is likely Phallus impudicus (a Stinkhorn species). The spores are in the stinking gelatinous substance on the head of the mature fungus. The aroma of rotting carrion attracts flies, who then spread the spores.

    The second photo is of one of the Coprinus species (Inky caps) - in this species the gills digest themselves at maturity, turning into an inky black fluid that drops on the ground and helps spread the spores. Cool and ghoulish, huh?

    Btw, I can't seem to sign in to leave a comment through my Google Account

  4. Thank you, Anonymous. I look forward to checking out these links. And thanks also for the note about not being able to post. I'll have to work on that...

  5. I hope you took a stereophoto of the Stinkhorn Fungus, Phallus impudicus, to accompany your series of stereoscopic views of the Amorphophallus gigantum or titanum when it first bloomed at The Huntington.

  6. Btw, Anonymous above is me, Bharati. Daniel and Susan, one of these years you will have to attend a talk on Micronesian Stinkhorn fungi by Dennis Desjardin. Truly wierd and wonderful.

  7. @Bharati- I eventually figured out it was you. Thanks so much. Let us know the next time Dennis Desjardin gives a talk. Sounds like fun!

  8. The first two photos: I've had the exact same type of mushrooms growing in my yard through a patch of gravel. I live in southern Indiana. I do not know what they are. My first thought was Morel too. But once I noticed the slimy liquid on top and that it rinsed off leaving it all one color, I decided that was not a Morel. I've hunted Morel mushrooms in the woods around here before, sliced them in half to soak in water over night to remove bugs that may have crawled inside of them, coat them in flour and deep fry them; but they never were covered in slime not did the color rinse off. I'm curious what they are though. Good luck. Thanks for the post. I'm glad I'm not the only one whose found these. I thought I had mutant mushrooms on my yard.