Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mushroom Identification Challenge #1

Mushroom hunters eye every downed and rotted tree on every forested slope that has what looks like fertile soil (indicated by clusters of growing greenery), and the closer to water, the better. Poking around in the woods I saw no fresh fungi, and shrugged and trotted onward -- "guess there aren't any" -- when I was stopped short by this club-shaped white growth, about four inches long, on an old fallen log. It was fleshy-feeling, cool, dry, and fresh.

Mushrooms are I.D.'d more by their shapes and gills and stems and location rather than their size and color; size and color can vary with age or conditions. This bulbous thing had no shape, no gills, and no stem. Didn't have the mushroom handbook along. Didn't want to cut it and take it home; it was a protected area, and I had no knife or basket with me. So I took photos and at home enlarged and studied them, and downloaded and consulted a mushroom-I.D. app ($1.69 at Google Play, and worth it) I can use next time I'm in the field.

This is a Bearded Tooth (Hericium erinaceus), so fresh its beard hasn't had time to grow long and shaggy. Yes, it's edible, but I was not hungry, and it is good mushroom-hunter ethics to catch-and-release for someone else, or someone hungrier, to enjoy. Looks kind of like a coconut-covered Hostess Sno-Ball. Or a white bath mat.

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