Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Phyllotopsis nidulans

Just got out in the woods yesterday. Probably my last time at this site over near Tuscaloosa. I came upon these lovely orange babies on a snag.
They look superficially like oysters, but on pine? No, these are the orange mock oyster, Phyllotopsis nidulans. Astipitate (without a stipe or stalk), on wood, these ones didn't smell fetid to me though they are reported to be nasty smelling. The pileus is fluffy in appearance on the top.

I just recently discovered another mycoblog, Mycorant. They have a link to my blog (thanks!) and do have some of the same material (i.e. fungal news), but a lot more of it. Did they get the inspiration for the name from looking upon my blog? Maybe. I'd like to think that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I recommend checking it out.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


One of my goals in writing this blog is to act as ombudsman for fungi. Why? Because fungi are, in my mind, fascinating organisms to study. It is true that fungi may interfere with human lives as agents of disease, and reduce yields of food crops. However, one fungal product has saved more lives than any other modern medical miracle except perhaps vaccinations, penicillin.

I came across this article recently, about the banning of yellow ribbons to honor soldiers in Litchfield, Connecticut. The reasons the town council gave for banning the ribbons were ridiculously flimsy. One reason was that the ribbons may cause a tree-killing fungus. This is absolute rubbish. Once again, fungi are being used as a scapegoat, and thankfully the citizens are not amused.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Some more fungal news

I've been slacking again. I just got back from a visit with my folks in Charlottesville, VA, where I had few fungal adventures, other than finding this lovely oyster mushroom growing on a tree on the Lawn of the UVa campus.

What else has been going on? Well, for one thing, Morrissey, former singer for the Smiths, decided he would launch into a tirage against Aer Lingus, calling it Aer Fungus. Grrr, why? Such a feeble insult! Clearly he knows little about the wonderful world of fungi.

In other news, a prime specimen of the white truffle was purchased by a Philadelphia restaurant for $4,100. The truffle weighed in at over a pound, and was found in Italy. You can see the fungal nugget in all its glory in this YouTube video.

Perhaps I should be looking for a job in the UK? A 90% drop in the number of mycologists may lead to more mushroom poisonings, according to this article.

And finally, an investigation into the abundance of fungi in mammoth dung has provided evidence that the decline of their populations was long and drawn out, not precipitous as would be expected in a meteor-caused extinction.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This day in fungal history and other fungal news

So it's been a while since I mentioned any fungi in the news, but I thought this tidbit of fungal history merited mention. On this day in 1931, an outbreak of Dutch elm disease was reported in the Greater New York area. The causal agent, Ophiostoma ulmi (and later O. novo-ulmi as well) is an exotic fungus, and the naive elm hosts are killed in great numbers. The name of the disease comes from the nation where the earliest research was conducted. There isn't a "Dutch elm", and the agent is not from the Netherlands. The fungus currently pictured at right is a Leptographium, a closely related group of fungi.

Fungi are also getting a lot of press for the diseases they are causing in the animal kingdom. Frog populations have been in decline due to chytridiomycosis, and bats are getting hammered by white nose syndrome, caused by another fungus, Geomyces sp. The risk has prompted closure of several of Alabama's caves.

In happier news, a violin made of fungus-infected wood outplayed a Stradivarius (they don't mention WHICH fungi). Previously I had blogged an article which suggested that Stradivari used fungus-infested wood to produce his masterpieces.

And finally, a fungus, Metarhizium, may be enlisted to help fight varroa mites, which have been linked to honeybee decline.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jack O'Lantern Mushrooms

My eye was drawn to these babies as I was driving around town this afternoon. I do believe what we have here is jack o lantern mushrooms (Omphalotus sp.). They are common at the base of oak trees or on adjacent roots (as these were). These ones were really bright orange, so they stood out and I just had to stop and tiptoe across a bit of lawn to get these pics.
I've had a friend mistake these for chanterelles, as they do have decurrent gills, but fortunately she didn't eat them, as they are poisonous. Probably won't kill you, but you won't be happy for a while if you do try eating them.

Just in time for Halloween!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


So, if you've visited my blog from stem to stern, you've seen the map of all the states I've visited. It's only there to shamelessly burnish my own glory, I admit. Well, right now I'm in Montana, which means I've added a state to my life list, leaving only Alaska, Delaware, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. I may have visited Delaware and not remembered it.

I'm planning on starting a post-doc out here in January, at least part-timing between Montana and Alabama, since I've got some roots in Alabama the Beautiful.

Here's a pic taken in Alabama by a friend of mine. I wish I could've seen this in person. That does appear to be a Hericium (coralloides or ramosum?), which is edible and choice.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A little bit of prime Alabamiana

Okay, this has nothing to do with fungi, but speaks volumes about Alabama. It's so awesome I had to watch it twice, post it here, and then I'm going to watch it again a time or two.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lots of interesting stuff out there....

I've been remiss in my blogging, especially so since there are SO MANY FUNGI fruiting out there, with all the rain we've been having. I recently went out with a friend to Tuskegee National Forest, where we saw a ton of stuff. And just about everywhere you look in the loveliest village on the plains, you see fairy rings.
Here's one.
And another.
And another.
And yet another. Really, these things are EVERYWHERE. I've blogged about them before, like in my neighbor's yard (UPDATE: she moved away! The new neighbors do not appear to be so mycophobic).

Today I was out in the woods near Tuscaloosa, and saw some fine fungi out there. I'm most jazzed about the gilled bolete I found, Phylloporus rhodoxanthus (sensu lato). I knew of its existence, and I can't remember if I'd ever found one before, but I saw the cap from above (being taller than most mushrooms) and thought "Aha, bolete!"

Turning it over, I was quite pleasantly surprised to find this:
It reminded me of a time (in California) when I picked up a Douglas-fir cone with a mushroom growing out of it, which I thought was Strobiluris trullisatus, and was surprised to find teeth (it was Auriscalpium vulgare). This mushroom looks just like a gilled mushroom (or "agaric") only with a bright yellow hymenium like a bolete. This particular one did not stain blue, which can happen, but does have forked gills (click on photo to zoom in), like a transitional form between true gills and the poroid (actually tuboid, boletes have tubes, not pores).
Also on the topic of boletes, I found some nice specimens of Strobilomyces dryophilus, "old man of the woods", good enough to eat, which I just might do!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Been too busy to blog of late...

I've been getting ready to end my days as a grad student/indentured servant, and I've finished my PhD. Tomorrow I'm off to Portland, OR for the American Phytopathological Society's annual meeting, where I'll get to talk about some of my research.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Russula in my backyard

This photo and the following two are of a mushroom I found in my backyard. It's a Russula sp. How do I know? Well, for one, the bright white gills which reflect the white spore print. Okay, that's not a great character because gill color often doesn't betray spore print color. But the next clue is the crisp break in the stalk. This is a giveaway for the Russulaceae, and is caused by distinctive boxy shaped cells called sphaerocysts. The two main genera in the Russulaceae are Russula and Lactarius. Lactarius spp, as the name suggests, exude a milky secretion when the cap or stem are broken. So that leaves us with Russula. Which Russula? I don't know. There are no distinctively green capped Russula spp. in Bessette et al. Some Russulaceae are edible and choice, others not so much and could hurt you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lots of material for bawdy jokes in this one.

The stinkhorns are a group of mushrooms that are even more phallic than most mushrooms, and include a genus, Phallus. There's a new species of Phallus to be described in the next Mycologia from Sao Tome and Principe. It is to be named after the expedition leader, a herpetologist

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Found some more boletes. I think I'm ready to try some. They look like
B. hortonii But I'll drop some ammonia ok just to be sure. Also looks
like some are being parasitized by Hypomyces (white stuff)

Friday, May 29, 2009

A-looky heeyah!

I was walking out of the lab today and came across this bright orange something. It turned out to be a chanterelle, the first I've seen in Alabama. All this late wet weather we've been having has brought out all kinds of strange things.

This one is most likely either Cantharellus confluens or C. lateritius. Bessette et al. have pictures of both but indicate that they may be a single species. The folds are not well developed, so they don't look very much like gills, as chanterelles are not directly related to gilled mushrooms in the strict sense. Chanterelles are some of the more 'easily identified' mushrooms, but as always, that's a relative term.

So what did I do? I said I wasn't going to eat it, because it looked a little beat up, but the more I looked at it and the more certain I became of my ID, the more it seemed to be crying out for some brushing off, chopping, and frying in Amish butter. So that's what I did. Just brush off the dirt (soggy mushrooms aren't very nice), chop, fry in butter with a pinch of salt. Dee-licious!

I'd almost forgotten how delicious fresh wild mushrooms can be. What a treat!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Hops are Free!

Good news, fans of craft beers! Governor Bob Riley has signed off on the "Gourmet Beer Act", which will allow for a greater diversity of beers in the state of Alabama. The Law previously restricted the sale of beers over 6.0 % alcohol by volume, the new limit is 13.9%. Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Here's a photo

Looks like ol' Turf Doctor's on the case there, eh?


So I'm going to try this mobile blogging. I went on a bike ride
between showers, and man, did I get worked to an embarrassing degree. I
did stop and smell the mushrooms, so to speak, including these
Ganoderma lucidum sporocarps. Now how do I attach photos?

Truth in aversion

Okay class, here's the question: what is wrong with the following statement "Unlike any ordinary vegetable or plant, mushrooms are actually members of the fungus family"

Pretty good for a layman, to acknowledge that mushrooms are not plants. But of course, the correct answer is that Fungi (yes, big F) are not a family, but a kingdom, in the sense of Whittaker's five-kingdom tree of life. Yes, Dr. Robert Whittaker, the same ecologist who monographed the flora of the Siskiyou Mountains straddling Oregon and California, he was the one who wisely deemed fungi not plants, at least he was the first to raise a decent stink about it!

Recall from your intro biology: Kingdom, Phylum (or Division, technically, since Fungi are named under the International Botanical Code of Nomenclature), Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. So we're only off by four levels in the hierarchy. And now we add domains above kingdoms, to really try and clarify things: Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya. Fungi (with a small f) being in the last with every other macroscopic organism.

In other, more local fungal news, be on the lookout for oak leaf blister! Personally, (and I confess to being biased) I think ugly is not an appropriate term for the blisters. Okay, maybe they're not particularly beautiful, even by my standards. The causal agent is Taphrina caerulescens, which is an ascomycete which doesn't produce an ascoma, but produces naked asci on the surface of the host. These fungi typically deform the plant that they've infected, as in peach leaf curl (caused by T. deformans), or if you've ever seen deformed alder cones (caused by T. alni). These are considered a basal lineage of ascomycetes.

Also, if you're looking for interesting and tasty ways to cook mushrooms, rather than rant about them, try The Mushroom Channel. It looks like we may get our links from the same source (Google News Alerts), but they focus more on the culinary side of things.

I want to note that a friend of mine recently told me she'd found some morels growing 'nearby'. This was in a site that she's had her eye one for years without seeing them. I guess the bounty of rain we've received has inspired them to sporulate. Bully for them!
And no, she wouldn't tell me where they were.

Update: 28 Jan 2011. I had to update the title of this post because the previous title was attracting spam like you wouldn't believe!

Thursday, April 30, 2009


As the weather starts to heat up here, it's nice to think about cooler climes. Perhaps not quick as cool as Antarctica, but it's a nice segue to this item. Antarctica has been thought to be fungus-free, as there is little available water or plant life to feed them. But Dr. Bob Blanchette has found some new wood-decay fungi that are feeding on Scott's huts. Amazing, eh?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cornell University to return fungal collection to China

In 1937, as the Japanese invaded China during World War II, a Chinese mycologist, educated in the United States, packed up some of the most prized specimens from a national botanic institute in Nanking. He loaded them on oxcarts and had them smuggled them out of the country to his alma mater in the 'States, Cornell University.

Now, these specimens are being repatriated including the rare Lentinus tigrinus, pictured above. (a local species of Lentinus is pictured in the masthead). A neat story you can read all about here. And here's a nice quote about the specimens from Cornell's Herbarium Director Kathie Hodge "To an average person, they look like something you would sweep off your kitchen floor. But under the microscope they're beautiful and exciting and incredibly diverse." How very true.

But of course, because the story is about fungi, it's filed under STRANGE (sigh).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ridiculous, but I'm not sure what to make of it...

More fungal headlines. Today's top story "Mushroom could ruin wedding couples' dreams". Now, I'm not sure what is the most ridiculous thing about this article. The perceived threat to the fungus, the blaming of the fungus, or the eco-hate that the article seems to be fomenting. The author's ignorance is clear. He writes of the 'potential presence of mycelium, a threatened type of lawn fungi'. Mycelium is a growth habit of fungi, not a type of fungus per se. Mycelium is the lattice of microscopic tubes (hyphae) that define the bodies of most fungi (yeasts are the most important exception). The economic downturn has now sunk to pointing fingers at fungi as standing in the way of progress.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Some fungi out there

It's been a wet spring, for sure. And wet weather brings fungi as sure as it brings the wildflowers.
I just found some interesting little harbingers of spring out there recently. Urnula craterium, (Ascomycota, Pezizales, Sarcostromataceae) which was growing just like they said it might. It looked like it might have been growing out of the wood, but it actually grows out of the ground.
Here's a look inside the apothecium, you can see that the cup extends down pretty far in there.

I think I also figured out another one of my mystery fungi, one that I'd seen several months ago. I'd taken photos but didn't quite have a handle on the name. I was thinking Pezizales, or maybe something with some type of Hypocrealean mycoparasitism, but not sure what. I'm thinking this other guy is Humaria hemisphaerica, at least from looking at the picture from Phillips' Mushrooms of North America. That's my best guess thus far, anyway.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

March is Maitake Mushroom Month

From the "now you tell me department". Still a little bit of the Maitake Mushroom Month left, so go and get you some! I haven't had maitake in a long while. I've never seen them around Auburn, but I'm sure you can get them in Atlanta. I had some friends who used to grow maitake and other less well know cultivatable edibles out in California. Maitake is Japanese for the dancing mushroom, because finding this fungus fruiting led the finder to dance with joy. This mushroom can be found growing in the wilds of the Northeast and out to Idaho, according to Wikipedia.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Some Good News about Mushrooms

Okay, enough rants. I've been a bit negative about how mushrooms have been portrayed in the news, even thought "all press is good press". I should just seize the opportunity to use the teaching moments at face value.
Here are some good news stories about fungi.
First, a video about how fungal mycelia can be used as a green insulating material:

Second, a study of Chinese women suggesting that mushrooms(what kind? maybe oysters) and green tea may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
What else can mushrooms do? Perhaps be used to replace potentially hazardous preservatives like BHT.
A documentary called "Know Your Mushrooms" is slated to be released soon, featuring music by the Flaming Lips.
Here's an excerpt (without music):

And finally, perhaps the best use of an acronym I've seen in a while; the Multidisciplinary UnSheltered Homeless Relief Outreach Of Morgantown (WV), or MUSHROOM.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Need oysters in T-town?

A couple of students at 'Bama (the University of Alabama, to be a bit more formal) have found a way to make a few ducats in their backyard, growing oyster mushrooms. They've started a company called Tuscaloosa Organic Produce to sell their products. Pretty good for 'Tide fans ;{)-

MSN posted the same video on the front page!

The video I linked to recently has made it to MSN's front page video. Someone added the clever comment "fascinatingly disgusting". Sigh, I must disagree. Also, it's been reposted on a site called "Stupid Videos", which may explain the person who called it fascinatingly disgusting. Fascinating yes. Disgusting? only to the ignorant.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Outdoor Alabama picks mushroom photo to grace cover!

A rare bit of Alabama mushroom news! Outdoor Alabama, the monthly magazine of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has selected the winners of the 2009 Photo Contest. The Grand Prize Winner is an Amanita! Okay, the winner is actually a 12-year-old shutterbug from Birmingham, but his subject is an Amanita. Also, the First, Second and Third Place Winners in the Flora section were all images of fungi, since lichens are part fungus as well.

While I'm happy for the fungi, it is a pet peeve of mine that fungi are referred to as "flora". This is one of those relict institutions from the days when fungi were thought to be closely related to plants. After all, both fungi and plants are non-motile (Oomycetes, Chytrids and slime molds being important exceptions). Fungal nomenclature follows the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (rather than the zoological, e.g. fungal families end in -aceae instead of -idae). But the fact is that fungi are actually more closely related to animals than they are to plants (as in sharing a most recent common ancestor).

Do I think Outdoor Alabama should have a separate category for Mycota? To allow the Flora a chance to shine again in photo contests? No, not right now anyway. I just hope the world is someday ready to embrace this level of biological literacy.

And also, if you want to see some AMAZING photos of fungi, I highly recommmend Taylor Lockwood's books and website, link over there on the right-->

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Okay, a recipe

Most of the what I get from Google news alerts are recipes. Not that I'm opposed to mycophagy, I just don't like posting lots of recipes that I haven't tried making or eating. But this one happens to be from Alabama, so I'll make an exception.

Paul Stamets says Fungi can save the world

Here's an interesting TED lecture (warning, 18 minutes long) by Paul Stamets, which outlines several ways in which fungi are very, very cool. He shows how fungi can bioremediate toxic spills, provide anti-viral pharmaceuticals, control pest insects, produce ethanol, and solve world hunger. See for yourself:

Thanks to my good buddy Dave for forwarding this along to me!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Otzi's fungi

Here's an article about a copper age mummy, Otzi, who died 5000 years ago in Europe, and happened to be carrying a few sporocarps about with him. The article refers to them as 'mushrooms', which irks me a bit, because they're conks, not really mushrooms. Mushrooms are really more fleshy, conks woody. But it's understandable given the level of myco-literacy among the laity. I once joked that I though mycology should be taught in the third grade. Probably not, but then it would be nice if mycologists had more company, I think.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cool video of fungi and Fungi

Here's a video of an Amanita muscaria sporocarp (mushroom) developing. It's missing my favorite part, when the universal veil breaks up and forms the white spots on the cap. This is what makes it look strawberry-like, at least in the red morphs. But it's understandable because the videographer probably wouldn't have recognized the mass as a Amanita muscaria mushroom until after the veil had started to break up.

Sorry I can't embed this, the embedding has been disabled. But it's a very cool video featuring time-lapse photography of some fungi growing. The music reminds me of the music from the Mushroom Men: Spore Wars, probably no coincidence.

It seems like a good time to mention the difference between fungi and Fungi. The first critter in the second video is a slime mold, which is a fungus, or more correctly, a fungus like organism. Stinkhorns, oysters, and the other mushrooms are all Fungi. What is the difference? Fungi with a capital "F" are of the Kingdom Fungi (Eumycota), which all share common ancestry. This includes chytrids, zygomycetes, glomeromycetes, ascomycetes, and basidiomycetes, and most of the Fungi formerly known as deuteromycetes.

With a small f, most fungi were considered to be closely related to the Fungi at one time or another, but all are now recognized as being more closely related to algae, or protozoa (a rather nebulous term). These include the oomycetes, like Phytophthora (species of which caused the Irish potato famine and sudden oak death), or myxomycetes, like the slime mold shown in the video.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mushroom Capital of the World?

I recently came upon a link to a small town newspaper, whose very masthead proudly boasts that Richmond, Missouri is the Mushroom Capital of the World. They host an annual Mushroom Festival, featuring loads and loads of MORELS, which are my favorite ascomycete mushrooms that are not truffles. Okay, so that's not saying much, as there aren't lots of edible ascomycete mushrooms that are not truffles, but morels are REALLY QUITE TASTY.

This year's Miss Missouri hails from Richmond, as well, and was announced as being from the Mushroom Capital of the World.

Unfortunately for me, Ray County, Missouri, appears to be in the northwest corner of the state, about as far from Alabama as it could get. So I'm not sure the mushroom festival will fit in my agenda. But hopefully I'll get there someday, as any place with such myco-braggadocio must be all right.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On portobellos, crimini, and button mushrooms

In an item that recently came into my inbox, the author states that the crimini is the 'little brother' of the portobello. Actually, the relationship is not filial, it's identical. Crimini, portobello, and common button mushrooms as well (the most commonly consumed kind in the US) are all Agaricus bisporus (J.E. Lange) Imbach. Crimini are small portobellos, buttons are immature crimini, and portobellos are the larger, more mature version of buttons and crimini. The difference is in the size.

These saprobic mushrooms do grow in the wilds of Europe and North America, commonly in grassy areas, and while button mushrooms may have gills that appear pinkish or white, they actually have a dark brown spore print at maturity. There are several species of Agaricus that share this niche, and some are edible, even choice (no surprise there), while others are 'poisonous to some individuals', or just plain poisonous. Some have interesting aromas, like anise, almond, phenol, bleach, or 'fungal', and the staining reaction (color changes when cut or bruised) and skirt (partial veil) characteristics are also important for identification. As always, don't eat anything if you're not SURE you know what it is.

The species epithet 'bisporus' comes from the two-spored basidia. Four is the most common number of spores/basidium in the holobasidiomycetes including most mushrooms.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Good gravy, people.

I don't mean to prattle on about this, but really. Death cap mushrooms? Yes, there are edible and choice Amanitas, but I'm a professional mycologist and I don't feel like I've missed out on anything by staying away from these easily confused species. Especially when it's a choice between haute cuisine and the Pearly Gates.

I'm hesitant to say that any mushrooms are easy to identify and unlikely to be confused with anything else, because easy and difficult are relative terms. I've known people who've mistaken jack o'lanterns for chanterelles, which could have been a fatal mistake if they hadn't decided against picking them at the last minute. I don't think these mushrooms look much alike. I also don't think Gyromitras look much like morels if you look closely, but mistakes get made and people end up in the hospital or cemetary.

There are mushrooms that are great delicacies, and I enjoy eating beyond the regular button mushroom very much. But there's no reason to risk your life for a good meal. Mushrooms are much maligned in our culture, out of misunderstanding and ignorance. I shouldn't chastise those who at least try to broaden their palates, although it rankles me that people don't exercise more caution.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jack Teagarden sings Stars Fell On Alabama and some notes on license tags

Here's another YouTube post, featuring the song that graces our basic license tags. Some folks prefer to cover the "Stars Fell On..." part with a "Heart of Dixie" sticker, and as of 2009 you can get the new Sweet Home Alabama tag. I, for one, love the song Stars Fell On Alabama, though I think I'm in a minority, there. This rendition of Stars Fell on Alabama is performed by Jack Teagarden, a trombonist who played with many of the luminaries of jazz including Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, Bix Beiderbecke, "Fatha" Hines, and Paul Whiteman.

I have yet to see the Nuked Vet tag, but I'll let you know when I do.

Not Alabama, but next door

Would you get your girlfriend a chainsaw for Valentine's Day? You might could...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Not much going on in the mushroom news...

The mushroom news has been rather dull of late. So I thought I'd amble over to see what's on YouTube if you search for mushrooms.
Here's what I thought was the pick of the bunch.

As usual, you can expect a lot of good fungal love from Japan. This is Shonen Knife with a song called "Brown Mushrooms", which isn't particularly descriptive. Lots of found mushrooms are often immediately shunted into Arora's "LBJ's" (Little Brown Jobs). But hey, at least I'm posting something.

Really, most of the mushroom news hasn't been too exciting of late.