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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mushroom Mania 2

After the rains of two days ago, I was anxious to get out into the woods yesterday to see if some fresh mushrooms had popped up. There were all sorts of fungi along the edges of the trail, and with ID guides waiting at home I snapped lots of photos. In addition to several species I'm starting to recognize as common for the area, there were at least a half a dozen new species I hadn't seen before, boosting my collection of local mushroom photos to easily top 30 species. I'm still unfamiliar with a lot of the terminology relating to mushroom morphology, and I have yet to get into it enough to start making spore prints (many species are identified by spore color), but using a combination of online resources and books I was able to tentaively figure out a few of the new species:

The above mushroom looks so unique I thought it would be easy to identify, but it actually took a while to find something that even looked remotely similar. I'm pretty sure this is a white jelly mushroom, and there were a couple of little clusters of them along the trail yesterday. They all seemed to be fresh, young specimens, but as they "open" fully, the top bulb flattens into a kind of tongue-like structure with little spore-bearing teeth on the underside. I didn't know to look for the teeth, which is the only thing that leaves me in doubt to the ID. It was hard to get the camera to focus on these, as they're so flat and spacey looking to me it looked like they might glow in the dark!

This abundant fungus was found in clusters ringing the edges of fallen logs that had been cut into pieces and stacked along the side of the trail. It is appropriately named turkey tail, for its fan shape and bands of brown color. It's one of the most common fores mushrooms and is found all across North America, although the colors can range from pale and tan to dark reddish brown to the mid-tone oranges seen here. It is believed to contain medicinal qualities that help strengthen the immune system, and one of my field guides points out that it makes a great natural chewing gum found trail-side while hiking.

The closest I can come on this species is the black elfin saddle, identified by its ribbed stem and knobby black cap. It's listed as fairly common in western woods, but similar to many poisonous species, although the photos I have make it fairly distinct from the false morel which is much more tan/orange in color. It's not apparent where the name elfin saddle comes from, but Google research may be hindered by the fact that there is a band with the same name!

In addition to books by David Arora, who describes mushrooms and mushroom hunting not only with eloquence but with a fair dose of comedy as well, I should give props to what have become my most relied-upon online resources: The Mushroom Expert for the species descriptions and Rogers Mushrooms for the visual keys and and trait-searchable easy keys.

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