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The Fungus Among Us

The word fungus often invokes disgust, as in the fungus that easily grows on the tiles of the shower at the fitness center - yuk. Or the kind that grows under your toenail and requires a prescription cream to eradicate. However, any culinary artist will tell you that mushroom fungus can be a wonderful, flavorful and versatile ingredient. (Don't forget dangerous! There are more than 84 species of mushrooms that are toxic, some of which are fatally so.) One thing is certain, wild growing mushroom fungus is visually fascinating!

These shiny orange-red mushrooms (Amanita Caesaria) grew from the pine leaf litter on the forest floor, after a series of spring rains. When they first begin to emerge, the sprouts have a bulbous top. As they grow, the canopy spreads out into the typical umbrella shape, and eventually will be completely flat atop the stem. They looked like something from Willie Wanka's garden.

This guy is probably the Macrolepiota Rachodes, otherwise known as the "shaggy parasol", though I'm not certain on this. He was growing amongst wet leaf litter, along with some green carpet moss. It is a creamy color mushroom, with brown textured spots that dot the canopy. This species (if I have properly identified it) is common and edible, but can cause allergic reactions.

I believe this is called Lenzites Betulina, but I could be wrong. Mushrooms can sometimes be difficult to identify. I come across this one fairly often in the woods, growing along the trunks of fallen trees, and decaying logs. This little colony was found on a log among some tall grasses, near a pond in a woodsy park. It grows in half circles, with brown and black rings radiating out from the center. I have a fondness for this species, possibly because it reminds me of seashells.

These sites can help you to identify wild fungus: