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Monday, November 11, 2013

The Fungi Files: Mushrooms with Pores

Until I started looking carefully at the mushrooms in the yard, I thought that gills were a prerequisite part of mushroom anatomy. Quite a few of the ones around my house, however, had holes under the caps instead of gills. By doing a little research, I found out that there is, indeed, a second category of mushrooms with caps that distribute spores by way of tubes or pores instead of gills. I can be forgiven, though, for being unaware of this wrinkle in mushroom taxonomy and anatomy: Agariclaes, or gilled mushrooms, number some 13,000 species worldwide, while the order Boletales, which has been used to classify mushrooms with pores, contains closer to 1,300 species. In other words, there are ten times the number of gilled mushrooms than mushrooms with pores and, in fact, some of those in the Boletales order have recently been discovered to be improperly categorized and are different on a molecular level than the group of mushrooms informally known as "boletes." If you take a look around, though, you might realize that there are members of the boletes family lurking about, hiding their different method of spore distribution under their caps.

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Boletus edulis
Photo by Hans Hillewaert
As in my previous post, I have made the decision to forego identifying the mushrooms pictured here. While there are far fewer boletes than gilled mushrooms, there are still sufficient numbers in my neck of the woods to make identification--with the usual need to agree with the official guides on the definitions of cap colors and textures, the examination of specimens at all stages of maturity, sniff and taste tests, examination of flesh after various degrees of abuse, and of course the indispensable spore prints--not worth the effort. There seem to be two particular body types among boletes: those like the one pictured at left, with a thick, bulbous stalk and rounded, proportionally small cap, and the ones I found, which tend to have relatively slender stalks and flat caps. I'd like to note that all of the mushrooms shown here were photographed in my own yard, that they seem particularly popular with the local squirrels, and that they are listed below in no particular order.

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This orange species starts of quite rounded when it emerges from the ground...

…but becomes more irregular in shape as it ages. The oldest one in this grouping has developed quite the fancy frill in its old age. They seem to top out at about three inches in diameter.

I upended one of the mushrooms in this cluster so you can see the pores.

While slugs might occasionally dine on the backyard boletes...

…they seem to be particularly popular with the local rodents.

These ruddy individuals, also three inches in diameter, collect pine needs on their slightly tacky caps. I'm sure (or at least as sure as I can be without spore prints) these are Suillus lakei.

This bolete has a particularly lumpy, irregular, and visibly textured cap.

If my memory serves me correctly, the cap was roughly five inches across.

This variety was also fairly large, perhaps as much as six inches in diameter.

A second member of the family emerges under the overhang of a mature specimen.

The substantial caps offered shelter to other mushrooms, too.

They looked rather like stepping stones set out in the grass before succumbing, at last, not to rot but to the lawn mower.

This mushroom has pores and a nice umbo, the raised bump in the center of the cap. I'm not positive if it's an immature specimen of one our front lawn boletes (perhaps the one that follows?) or is a separate species.

We did get several varieties of large, tan boletes in our front lawn. This one matured to have a flat top, some six inches across, and upturned edges that reveal the pores.

The tubes or pores containing the mushroom's spores.

My dog gives the mushroom a curious sniff. She was unable to determine by smell why I found it a subject of such fascination.

You can also see a bit of her muzzle in the background as she investigates an overturned bolete in the backyard.

This buff-colored variety, four inches across at the widest point, are particularly popular with the squirrels...

…as can be seen by the well-gnawed underside of another one that had been plucked from the ground.

They stand on reddish, hollow stems.

The bruised flesh is reddish, too, as seen here in the gouge marks left by a squirrels's incisors.

Another backyard specimen has a flat top in a darker shade of brown and is about three inches across.

With age, the edges of this variety curl increasingly over the cap. 

And the final type: these dark brown/blackish boletes have a matte texture that looks almost velvety.

The mature caps are pitted both by nature and by animals bites.

A fly rests on the edge of exposed rosy-orange flesh.

The cap on the dark boletes are two and a half to three inches in diameter.

A Douglas-fir rises out of our front yard.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that all of the boletes I photographed were in my own yard. While I didn't canvas a particularly large area, I didn't spy any boletes in any of the other front yards in my neighborhood, in the front or back yards of the three houses where I've dog-sat during my mushroom photography phase, or in two wooded parks that I visited, and yet I've photographed as many as nine species (some of the orangish mushrooms might be variants of the same species) around my own home. Why I have boletes in my yard and other people do not probably has something to do with the big Douglas-fir in the middle of our front yard and a second Douglas-fir in the back. Apparently, some 1,000 species of mushrooms form mycorrhizal (mutually beneficial) relationships with Douglas-firs and boletes are among those number. (Most boletes, in fact, form mycorrhiza with a particular tree species or at least a particular type, like conifers versus hardwoods.) In fact, Suillus lakei is associated exclusively with Douglas-firs, and there are several of them currently growing in the beds near the trunk of the tree in the photo. While many of our neighbors have Douglas-firs in their backyards, we are one of the only houses to have one in the front. Boletes (and other mushrooms) may also like the fact that we have given up on trying to prevent moss from growing in the grass in the front and have ripped out the lawn entirely in the back, creating conditions that are slightly more forest-like than the traditional suburban yard. I'm sure if I went into the woods and looked long and hard, I'd find other boletes, but in the meantime, I'm mighty pleased to see so many right outside my door!

While this is hardly a comprehensive survey of members of the Boletales, I hope it will inspire a few people to go outside and peer under the caps of the local mushrooms to see if there are any pores lurking among all the gills.

Next up: assorted fungi with neither pores nor gills!

Also, if you missed my previous post on mushrooms with gills, you can find it here.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Fungi Files: Mushrooms with Gills

The annuals are dying, the leaves are falling, and almost all the insects are gone, but have no fear, for I have developed a happy new seasonal photography obsession: mushrooms! Our sodden September and foggy October have had mushrooms popping out of the ground left and right, much to my photographic delight. Many of these mushrooms are old friends, appearing in the same places every year--I know the two front yards in our neighborhood that get Amanita muscarias and am always on the lookout this time of year for their distinctive white-spotted red caps to show, especially since I want to be sure to get photos before the local wildlife fills them with holes--but by paying close attention, I've discovered there's greater fungal diversity in my own yard than I'd previously realized. Most of these photos were taken in my yard or my neighborhood, though taking my camera with me on a walk in a wooded park paid huge dividends! I've taken so many mushroom photos over the past few weeks that I've found it best to separate them into three blogposts: mushrooms with gills, mushrooms with pores, and assorted other fungi. This first post is dedicated to gilled mushrooms.

A large fairy ring.

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A spore print I took during my quest
to ID my mushroom photographs
Note: I would have dearly liked to be able to identify the majority of mushrooms in this post, but it turns out that other than a few obviously show-stopping species like the Amanitas, mushrooms are extraordinarily difficult to identify, especially from photos. To get a correct ID, you typically need to know the cap size (in centimeters), the cap shape, the cap's shape as it ages, the cap's color, the cap's color as it ages, the cap's texture, the type of gills, the color of the gills, the color of the gills as they age, how the gills are connected to the stem, whether or not the mushroom has a "veil" or "partial veil," the placement of the stem relative to the center of the cap, the color of the stem, the thickness of the stem, the height of the stem, if the stem has a ring, if the stem has a volva, how easily the cap and/or stem come apart, how the mushroom smells, how the mushroom tastes, what color the gills or pores turn when bruised, whether or not the mushroom "bleeds" when cut, what substance the mushroom is growing in, if the mushroom is growing singly or with others, and, very importantly, what color the spores are, which usually has to be determined by taking spore prints. Even with all of this information, you may still have difficulty ID'ing your mushroom because your definition of "brown" may be different than "brown" as it is defined by the official mushroom guides, and even if you and the guides concur on all your terms and colors, some species can only be told apart by examining the spores under a microscope or through DNA analysis. So, in other words, after several days of trying, I gave up the dream of identifying all but a few of the mushrooms. I have noted approximate heights and cap diameters in the captions, as the sizes can be deceptive in the photographs, and have arranged them from largest to smallest.

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A bright, speckled ball pushing out of the duff signals the arrival of the Amanitas.

Amanita muscaria, perhaps, given its orangish coloring, of the guessowii subspecies.

This Amanita is four inches tall with a cap that is five inches in diameter. The dangling bit is what is known as a veil.

Another emerging Amanita. These mushrooms can be toxic, so it's best to look but not touch!

This Amanita muscaria is closer to nine inches in diameter and is still unfolding!

Coprinus comatus, otherwise known as the shaggy mane or shaggy ink cap, is another easy-to-identify species. These ones are just pushing up through the leaves.

Though the caps are perhaps only two inches in diameter, the taller among the mushrooms pictured here are roughly eight inches in height. 

The spores of ink cap mushrooms are released as the caps decompose and liquify. 

These shaggy mane mushrooms looked quite striking among fallen red leaves.

I saw several Russula brevipes during my walk in the woods. Their dramatic, irregularly-shaped caps are at least six inches across. 

Macrolepiota procera, or parasol mushroom.

The five-inch cap of this parasol mushroom is heavily and handsomely textured.

I photographed this flat-topped mushroom in a grassy field some weeks ago, so I can only speculate from memory that the diameter of the cap was in the range of three to four inches.

The following four images are of the same pair of mushrooms photographed over the course of twelve days.

As you can see, they went from having concave caps... convex. At their prime, they were about 2 inches tall with three-inch caps.

As they matured, the mushrooms darkened considerably.

I'm almost positive that this is the same kind of mushroom as those pictured above...

...but are these?

And are these mushrooms related to the ones above? The cap color, the way the gills are attached to the stem, and the stem ring are all the same, but this grouping is much taller, the tallest standing three inches high. The largest has a cap diameter of two and three-quarter inches.

As you can see, the edges did not turn up as they aged. Does that mean they aren't the same kind? Or were the turned-up edges on the other mushrooms an anomaly?

Fortunately, another group of similar mushrooms has sprouted nearby, giving me further opportunities to ponder their possible connection.

I found this smooth, low-growing, dew-coated mushroom and the one below in a grassy field.

If memory serves me correctly, they both had diameters of approximately three inches.

Another variety of Amanita pushes up through the pine needles.

This is an Amanita gemmata.

The ones I found stand about three inches tall and have two-and-three-quarter-inch caps.

The cap on the largest in this cluster of mushrooms is two and half inches in diameter. The distinctively alternating short and long gills and irregular cap shape made it possible to say that it is the same species... this mushroom, which I found elsewhere.

The round cap, ruddy exterior, and pure white interior make me think of Snow White's apple whenever I see these mushrooms.

The cap on this variety is about two and a half inches in diameter.

This red-topped mushroom is almost certainly a Russula and could even be a Russula emeitca, but there are more than a 100 red-topped Russula species worldwide, all of them virtually identical. I read a rather humorous rant from a mushroom expert on the futility of attempting to tell one red-capped Russula from another. So I'll trust the experts on this one and leave it alone! If memory serves me correctly, its cap was also about two and a half inches in diameter.

I found this utterly lovely pair of red-topped, white-stemmed mushrooms joined at the cap sprouting out of the front lawn.

At this writing, each of the caps is about an inch and a half across and the stems are an inch and a half tall, but I expect them to get bigger and have positioned them in the size hierarchy accordingly.

I found these mushrooms all over the place around the stable where I ride horses.

The tallest stands about an inch and a half high with a cap diameter of two inches.

They sprouted singly, in close proximity, and in clusters.

The most common mushroom in my backyard is the Coprinellus micaceus, colloquially known as the mica cap or glistening inky cap.

Several times each year, a particularly thick cluster sprouts under one of our cedars. This photo shows the mica caps in every stage of maturity. The largest are about three inches tall with one-inch caps.

This mica cap, standing all by its lonesome, is beginning to decay along the edges--getting inky, so to speak--as it prepares to release its spores.

These pale brown mushrooms with two-inch, slightly convex caps grew in great colonies on the forest floor.

This cluster of mushroom caps--approximately an inch and a half in diameter--were oriented vertically rather than horizontally. 

I was walking Cutie the Pyrenees while taking the photos in the woods--you can see that she deposited some of her fur on these mushrooms when she came over to see what I was looking at!

More mushrooms growing out of logs, though these were standing upright and collecting beads of mist.

The largest of these had caps measuring roughly an inch and a half across.

A mushroom colony sprouting from the end of a fallen log.

These bright orange mushrooms with one-inch caps were highly gregarious.

I loved how they looked growing all over mossy stumps in the woods!

I like the way the tops of the mushrooms look as they push up through the moss. 

These little white mushrooms pop up just about everywhere!

They stand one inch tall and have caps that are three-quarters of an inch to one inch across. This specimen was uprooted by a foraging animal before the cap had fully unfurled.

I found a few of these tan-capped mushrooms growing near the white mushrooms in the lawn, leading me to wonder if they are a color variation of the same species or a different one altogether. When clusters of the white mushrooms come up together, some of them will have more tan on their caps than others, though not usually so much color as this.

While similar in appearance, the slight speckling on the cap and the thinness of the stem leads me to believe this is a different species than the ones above. It is much the same size, however.

This mushroom growing among the fallen leaves has a wavy cap--roughly an inch in diameter--with an umbo, or raised bump, in the center.

I found several of these mushrooms sprouting out of the side of lawn where it meets our sidewalk. It's funny to see what niches there are for various fungi to fill! Their wavy caps were about three-quarters of an inch across and, as you can just see in the photo, their stems were slightly shaggy.

These petite brown mushrooms, their caps less than an inch in diameter, were growing out of the pine needles in the dry shade of a conifer tree.

Don't let the scale of this close-up fool you: this fragile-looking mushroom was also less than an inch in diameter! 

A distinctive cap texture sets these little brown mushrooms apart from others of their ilk.

I've found them growing in the moss in both our front and back yards.

They stand about one inch tall with a half-inch cap.

This brown mushroom is ever-so-slightly smaller.

The pointed cap, a bit less than half an inch in diameter, is nicely striped.

Come fall, almost every patch of grass plays host to clusters of tiny mushrooms, some pale...

...some gray (these are two inches tall, with half-inch caps)...

...some brown...

...and some orange.

A long, sturdy, flexible stem was necessary to elevate this little quarter-inch cap above the grass!

Other tiny lawn-dwellers include petite, pin-like mushrooms. While their stems are fairly long, their caps don't measure more than a quarter of an inch across.

Members of the species at all stages of maturity can be seen in this photo.

These tiny mushrooms just barely emerging from the moss are only a quarter of an inch or so in size.

A picture with my thumbnail in it gives some perspective!

This little sprig of mushrooms poking out of the fallen leaves stood on slender stems an inch and a half tall, topped with quarter-inch caps.

My favorite among the tiny mushrooms I've documented are these little guys with their straight, slender stems and handsome, quarter-inch caps.

I found them in the woods establishing a diminutive forest of their own on a mossy branch.

And that, as of the 1st of November, at any rate, completes my collection of photographs of the gilled mushrooms I've found in my yard, the neighboring yards, at horse stable, and in a wooded park. Of course, every time I take a walk, I seem to find more new ones, so it's hardly a comprehensive survey of all the gilled mushrooms in the region, but I hope it helps illustrate the diversity of mushrooms that can be found in a very small area. (After I wrote the following sentences, I went outside to check on the aging process of some of the mushrooms and ended up photographing three new species. There may have to be a late fall followup post!) And these are just the gilled mushrooms, mind you: mushrooms with pores and other fantastic fungi are still to come, so stay tuned!

These mushrooms didn't come up in their usual place in the yard this year.
Perhaps they'll appear in time for a later post?