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November’s Monthly Mushroom: Common Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)

November’s Monthly Mushroom: Common Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus)

by Jasper ~ 8 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

It is hard not to notice when you get close to a stinkhorn. You are most likely to catch a whiff of one long before you see it. If you find yourself lured to the source of this eye-watering odour, you will encounter a fungal form that is difficult to put out of one’s mind. These two equally offensive aspects combine to make it one of the most commonly found and identified fungi in the United Kingdom.

It shouldn’t be necessary to provide an exact English translation for the Common Stinkhorn’s  Latin name of Phallus impudicus, nor the derivation of the name Phallaceae that encapsulates the entire stinkhorn family. Those with a working knowledge of French will note its defining characteristics are contained in both its direct translation from the scientific binomial name, as ‘le phallus impudique’, and its more common sobriquet ‘le satyre puant’ (‘stinking satyr’). In Japan, it is the suppon-take (pronounced ‘soup-on takkay’) or ‘snapping-turtle mushroom’, referring to the soft-shelled fresh-water amphibian whose bobbing elongated neck has its own aphrodisiac associations in Asia. Read more...

Sulphur tuft

Monthly Mushroom: Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare)

by Jasper ~ 3 October, 2018 ~ one comment

Fifty shades of brown, these are the hues in which we tend to imagine our Autumns, but it struck me while wood-wandering one sunny day recently that we are still just within that transitional period of the year, around the equinox, when yellows and oranges stand out brighter than ever within the forest colour palette. As we ease into October, the woods are positively bursting with Ochre russulas (Russula ochroleuca), Honey fungus (Armillaria mellea) and Laughing Gyms (Gymnopilus junonius) and there is also still a good chance of crossing paths with the standout egg-yolk smears of Fuligo septica, or the Dog Vomit slime mould . Read more...

Monthly Mushroom: Wrinkled Peach (Rhodotus palmatus)

Monthly Mushroom: Wrinkled Peach (Rhodotus palmatus)

by Jasper ~ 17 September, 2018 ~ one comment

One can understand why amateur mycology might seem like an unrewarding and slightly odd pastime to the outside observer. There are many who might consider squatting amongst the leaf litter with guidebook in hand, trying to pinpoint whether the flush of slimy brown-yellow toadstools sprouting from a rotting log or tree stump could be Hypholoma fasciculare, Hypholoma capnoides or maybe even Kuehneromyces mutabilis, an ultimately pointless endeavour. Few would deem being able to distinguish Dead Moll’s Fingers from Dead Man’s Fingers or a Leopard Earthball from a Common Earthball  among the most vital of life skills.  Read more...

Monthly Mushroom: The Parasol Mushroom (Macrolepiota procera)

Monthly Mushroom: The Parasol Mushroom (Macrolepiota procera)

by Jasper ~ 17 August, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Parasols should be popping up all across the UK at the moment. Paul Stamets in Mycelium Running calls them “one of the most majestic of all edible mushrooms.” The second part of the Latin name Macrolepiota procera literally means lofty, upraised or extended to a great height, and they are certainly hard to miss on late-Summer and Autumn forays. 

The Parasol mushroom starts out looking something like a drumstick, before the initially egg-shaped cap opens up to a maximum size of around a foot across (typically between 10-30cm) when fully grown. Read more...

Common Earthball_Scleroderma citrinum_2

The Monthly Mushroom: Common Earthball (Scleroderma citrinum)

by Jasper ~ 31 July, 2018 ~ comments welcome

We’ve had an exceptional Summer of scorched soils, withered leaves and parched lawns so far this year, so July’s Monthly Mushroom almost slipped by the wayside while I awaited a shift to atmospheric conditions slightly more conducive to a fresh seasonal flush. However, this choice specimen should be emerging just around now and should be with us until the end of the year.

They are the same shape and size of many of the puffball examples listed in the last Monthly Mushroom post, but few amongst even the most passionate woodland wanderers tend to get too fired up by the sight of an Earthball. Read more...

The Monthly Mushroom: Stump Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme)

The Monthly Mushroom: Stump Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme)

by Jasper ~ 15 June, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Rather than applying to a single taxonomic group, the word puffball covers a broad range of distinct species of ball-shaped fungi that are typically commonly spotted around the fields and forests of the United Kingdom from Summer through to late Autumn. If you look at the first part of the Latin name describing the genus of the various different types lumped together under the puffball handle, it becomes clear they are less closely related genetically than their similar appearances suggest.

For example, there are the Common Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum),Meadow Puffball (Vascellum pratense), the Brown Puffball (Bovista nigrescena), the Mosaic Puffball (Handkea utriformis) and the Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea). The most obvious distinguishing features between them are their sizes. Read more...

The Monthly Mushroom: Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus)

The Monthly Mushroom: Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus)

by Jasper ~ 4 May, 2018 ~ one comment

Bracket fungi encompass a host of species that typically grow in tough semicircular shelves on tree trunks, logs and branches, their mycelium consuming both the living and the dead wood within (although there are some soil-dwelling types that form mycorrhizal relationships with their hosts). For more on mycorrhizal fungi, see this previous posting on Fly Agarics.  The term has been applied in a general fashion to various examples on the basis of the physical form of the fruiting bodies rather than any genetic kinship. As such it includes such notable edibles as the Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) also known as the Sulphur Shelf, and the grisly looking Beefsteak fungus (Fistulina hepatica), which oozes a blood-red liquid when cut (featured image)

Read more...

The Monthly Mushroom: Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)

The Monthly Mushroom: Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)

by Jasper ~ 11 April, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Looking for fungi in the wild is one thing, but if you really want to get to know your mushrooms, what better way than to grow your own? With growing kits for a good number of different varieties available from various shops or online sources, it is not quite the dauntingly complex process you might think (see final image below).

By far the easiest to cultivate at home are Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus sp.), which thrive on a variety of substrates. Paul Stamets’ seminal Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World (2005) contains photos of them thriving on straw, corncobs, human hair, wood chips, old clothing and even a straw-stuffed armchair.  The most common of the “exotic” types to start making their way into our supermarkets over the past couple of decades, the Oyster mushroom owes its name more to its shape than its delicate taste and texture. Read more...

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