That weird fungus I found last year in June turns out to be two fungi. It, or rather they, were growing from a mossy decomposed log in my woods. The whole thing looked a bit like a chunk of old foam rubber. Not being an expert in fungi I started searching images with queries like “globular fungus” and “tuberous fungus”. This soon led me to truffles and their kin. Then, after seeing cross sections of these globular fungi with their layered interiors, I was steered towards the truffle relatives Geopora and Hydnocystis. By that time I was way off the path to the right identification especially after I saw an exterior shot and cross-section of Geopora cooperi which has a fuzzy exterior and distinctly convoluted interior. (See more photos of Geopora and Hydnocystishere on the Asociacion Vallisoletana de Micologia web site. But G. cooperi, as far as is known, does not grow in Minnesota. Some species of Hydnocystis are reported to grow here, though. I was close, in the right family (Pezizales), but was looking at the wrong genera and missing a very important microscopic feature.
One night I was browsing the internet about another fungus (Datronia scutellata) and came across a very informative site called Weird and Wonderful Wild Mushrooms. Going through the archives I happened upon a post on false morels. The picture of Gyromitra gigas in cross section reminded me of what I had found last year. After some communication with the blogger it turned out that this foam rubber fungus is neither Geopora or Hydnocystis but a Gyromitra, most likely G. esculenta, very common here, that has been infected by another fungus called Sphaeronaemella helvellae. The fuzz over the fungus surface was S. helvellae and not, as I first thought, a coating soft hairs on its surface. So, this is another infected mushroom!
Infection by S. helvellae does more than coat the Gyromitra with fuzz. It also deforms it and this globular deformity and the layered interior led me in the direction of truffle relatives. There are many parasitic fungi that infect other fungi. One genus, Hypomyces, contains some 53 different species that infect a huge range of gilled mushrooms including Russula, Lactarius, Suillus, and Amanita. The mushroom Psathyrella epimyces infects Coprinus, the inky caps, and there are several species of Cordyceps that infect truffles.
As promised many months ago the checklist of fungus species identified so far from my property. The list as of May 11, 2016 stands at 64 species. The genus checklist is at 57 genera now but not all (about 14) are identified to species. Among my photos of fungi are many about which I have only the vaguest of ideas. Fungus species identified include pathogenic, parasitic, and saprobic species, and symbiotic and mutualistic species such as ectomycorrhizal symbionts that colonize tree roots. Not included on the checklist are lichens which are fungi that exist in symbiosis with a photosynthetic algae or bacteria. They are on a separate list which at this point numbers about 65 species.
From May to November last year I identified many species of fungi, both Basidiomycota and Ascomycota, such as Coltricia perrenis, Fuscoboletinus paluster, Bisporella citrina, and Scutellinia scutellata. But the warm weather season is not the only time fungi can be found. While winter and early spring are not usually considered mushrooming time they are a good time to find perennial bracket fungus species on trees and logs. From March to May as winter leaves the cool season sac fungi (Ascomycota) fruit. I added three new polypore bracket species to the list between March 1st and May 1st: Phellinus ignarius, Phellinus tremulae, and Datronia scutellata. I also added four new species of sac fungi: Diplodia tumefaciens, Gyromitra esculenta, Peniofora rufa, and Urnula cratarium.
On one of my ramblings in the woods in early October I came across some mushrooms commonly called “boletes”. The boletes (more properly known as the order Boletales,) are a large group of fungi distinguished by tubular pores in the spongy lower surface of the fruiting bodies and not gills. At one time Boletales was easily separated by these simple physical characteristics but if molecular phylogenetic analysis is to be believed then Boletales now includes a disparate amount of decidedly un-bolete-like fungi such as Coniophora, a dry rot fungus once included in the Thelephoraceae, and the family Sclerodermataceae, the thick-skinned puffballs (Scleroderma).
Using dichotomous keys and a strictly morphological analysis (because, sadly, not everyone owns an electrophoresis lab) I have identified with a good measure of confidence three species of boletes I found growing in the sphagnum covered soil around the tamaracks and black spruce in my woods. They are Suillus cavipes, Suillus grevelei, and Fuscoboletinus paluster (syn. Boletinus paluster). The last one is my favorite because I have been looking for this genus for a long time so finding this Fuscoboletinus elevated my mood for several days. Some species of Fuscoboletinus are rare hence my euphoria at finally discovering one.
Suillus and Fuscoboletinus are ectomycorrhizal fungi as is the case with so many forest mushrooms. The three species shown here associate with eastern larch (Larix laricina) and black spruce (Picea mariana) and other Larix and Picea species.
Suillus cavipes close-up of cap showing fiberous surface.
Suillus cavipes in its natural surroundings.
Suillus cavipes sectioned to show the hollow stem.
Suillus cavipes pores. Note the yellow color and angular shape of the pores which begin close to the stem.
Suillus cavipe spore print
Suillus grevillei. The shiny and viscid cap is typical of this species.
Stem of Suillus grevillei with striations and annulus (ring near top).
Suillus grevelei spore print
Suillus grevillei underside of cap showing pores and light brown coloration.
Cluster of Fuscoboletinus paluster growing from the side of a mossy stump.
Group of Fuscoboletinus paluster in sphagnum moss in a black spruce and tamarack swamp
Red cap of Fuscoboletinus paluster.
Fuscoboletinus paluster spore print
Fuscoboletinus paluster underside of cap showing decurrent pores with angular openings that have turned brown in this older specimen.
My primary source for identifying these mushrooms were The Boletes of Michigan (Smith and Thiers) and the works of W. A. Murril. To learn more about boletes you should visit boletales.com which is full of information on this fascinating group of mushrooms. Also, check the “References Consulted” at the end of this post. All are available online for free.
There are other boletes in the sphagnum that I have not identified. Some I saw for the first time this year. And there is the mystery Suillus shown below which I saw once eight years ago and have never found again.
Binder, M. and Hibbett, D. S. (2006). Molecular systematics and biological diversification of Boletales. Mycologia, 98(6): 971–981.
Finlay, R. D. (1989). Functional aspects of phosphorus uptake and carbon translocation in incompatible ectomycorrhizal associations between Pinus sylvestris and Suillus grevillei and Boletinus cavipes. New Phytologist, 112. 185-192.
Kuafmann, C. H. (1914). The Fungi of North Elba. New York Slate Museum Bulletin 179, Report of the State Botanist. Published by The University of the State of New York, Albany.
Murril, W. A. (1909). The Boletaceae of North America I. Mycologia, Volume 1: 4-18.
Murril, W. A. (1909). The Boletaceae of North America II. Mycologia, Volume 1: 140-160.
Murril, W. A. (1914). The Boletes of America. Published by the author. 40 pages.
Smith, A. H. and Thiers, H. D. (1971). The Boletes of Michigan. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 428 pages.
This branching form nestled in a bed of golden haircap moss (Polytrichum commune) is it a coral? No, it is actually the fungus Thelephora anthocephala a very terrestrial organism. There were about 40 of these fungi growing in the moss over an area of about 15 square feet back in September of this year. I had never seen this type of fungus before anywhere so naturally I was quite excited. Their resemblance to fungi in the genus Clavaria (coral fungus) is apparent but the relationship is distant.
The name Thelephora anthocephala is from four Greek words: thele (nipple), phora (bearing), antho (flower), and cephala (head). So it is the “nipple-bearing flower head” fungus. The nipple part of the name is in reference to the (usually) papillate (bumpy or nipple-like) surface of the spore producing organs found in most members of the genus.
Description Thelephora anthocephala is a leathery, fibrous fungus with numerous brown coral-like branching stalks (3 to 5 cm tall) from a short (1 to 1.5 cm) base. The ends of the branches are dark brown near the base, fuscous purple further up, becoming lighter near the ends which are flattened, spoon-shaped and whitened. Spores are produced at the branch tips.
The related T. palmata is similar looking but has a fetid odor. T. anthocephala is odorless and tasteless. I did the sniff test on several of them to be sure. Some Thelephora (Thelephora ganbajun, for example) are eaten although I do not know of anyone eating this or any other North American species so I didn’t do a taste test on these.
Genus and Species: Thelephora anthocephala
Habitat T. anthocephala is an ectomycorrhizal fungus found in forests.
Range and Distribution T. anthocephala is widely distributed across the Northern Hemisphere.
Barrett, C. F.; Freudenstein, J. V.; Taylor, D. L; and Kõljalg, U. (2010). Range Wide Analysis of Fungal Associations in the Fully Mycoheterotrophic Corallorhiza striata Complex (Orchidaceae) Reveals Extreme Specificity on Ectomycorrhizal Tomentella (Thelephoraceae) Across North America. American Journal of Botany 97(4): 628–643.
Burt, E. A. (1914). The Thelephoraceae of North America. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Vol. 1: 185-229.
He, J.; Zhou, Z; Yang, H.; and Xu, J. (2011). Integrative Management of Commercialized Wild Mushroom: A Case Study of Thelephora ganbajun in Yunnan, Southwest China. Environmental Management 48:98–108.
Shiryaev, A. (2008). Diversity and distribution of thelephoroid fungi (Basidiomycota, Thelephorales) in the Sverdlovsk region, Russia. Folia Cryptogamica Estonica 44: 131-141.
Tedersoo, L.; Suvi, T.; Larsson, E.; and Kõljalg, U. (2006). Diversity and community structure of ectomycorrhizal fungi in a wooded meadow. Mycological Research 110:734-748.
There is an extraordinary abundance of colorful fungi in the woods at this time of the year sprouting from dead logs, from under leaves, and through duff and moss. They come in reds, pinks, yellows, cream, white, buff. Some are the color of coffee dried at the bottom of the cup, others look like chocolate velvet. Colors may be solid or they may be zoned in concentric rings There are species that ooze orange sap when cut. And there are smells, too, from fragrant spice to anise and peppery to earthy. Some are sweet and others, like stink-horn, smell like rotting meat. The sizes of the fruiting bodies vary tremendously, too. There are giant puffballs 20 cm in diameter to tiny parasol mushrooms barely 2 mm tall growing on conifer needles. But most fungal activity goes un-noticed until fruiting bodies appears or in the case of some wood rots a tree or a barn collapses.
One fungus, known as “Green Stain” and “Green Elf Cups” (Chlorociboria aeruginascens) is easily noticed even when not in fruit. This is because Chlorociboria aeruginascens colors the wood it is decomposing to a rich blue-green color. The piece of wood shown at the top of the page is an aspen log that is thoroughly colonized by Green Elf Cups. The fungal mycellium of Green Elf Cups has a very strong pigment that stains wood blue. This is not the same discoloration as that caused by Blue Stain Fungus (Grosmannia clavigera) which infects living pine trees. Green Elf Cups fungus grows in dead wood including recently cut lumber. As the mycellium grows through the wood it turns blue from pigments secreted by the fungus. The color is produced by xylindein, a naphthoquinone, which the fungus secretes and probably inhibits the growth of other organisms. High levels of sucrose in the wood promote faster growth of the fungus. The staining or spalting can be a problem of its own for timber sales as the wood is generally regarded as less valuable. There is an exception made for some blue stained wood which is used for inlaid woodwork such as intarsia.
It is rare for Green Elf Cups to fruit except after long periods of rain so to find them is special. Most of the time the mycellium just grows throughout the wood staining it blue. Below are photos of Green Elf Cups fruiting bodies on a decomposing aspen logs. It had been a very rainy few days and the log itself rests in a damp spot in the forest. If you look closely at the first photo you will see a tiny snail just to the right of the largest fruiting body on the the left end. The snail is full sized and might be a species in the genus Vertigo. I suspect it was eating some of the Green Elf Cups as there are small holes in one.
The fruiting body of Chlorociboria aeruginascens appears in the late summer and fall especially after abundant rains. It starts out as a cup-shaped disc bit soon flattens out and about 2 to 5 mm across on a short 1 to 2 mm long stem centrally positioned or a little off-center. The surfaces of the fruiting body are smooth and without any hairs or other surface projections. When not in fruit the green stained wood is a reliable indicator of its presence at any season. The substrate is soft, decayed wood (logs, branches, stumps) often with the bark falling off. It is commonly found in aspen, willow, maples, birch, oak, and some conifers. Woods with high sugar contents are produce faster and more rapid growth of the fungus.
Range and Distribution Chlorociboria aeruginascens is widely distributed in forests across North America including Mexico and the Caribbean islands, also South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa.
Blanchette, R. A.; Wimering, A. M.; and Baumeister, M. (1992). The Use of Green-Stained Wood Caused by the Fungus Chlorociboria in Intarsia Masterpieces from the 15th Century. Holzforschung 46:225-232.
Johnston, D. R. and Park, D. (2005). Chlorociboria (Fungi, Helotiales) in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany, Vol. 43: 679-719.
Rice, A. V and Langor, D. W. (2009). Mountain pine beetle-associated blue-stain fungi in lodgepole x jack pine hybrids near Grande Prairie, Alberta (Canada). Forest Pathology 39:323–334.
Robinson, S. C.; Tudor, D.; Snider, H.; and Cooper, P. A. (2012). Stimulating growth and xylindein production of Chlorociboria aeruginascens in agar-based systems. AMB Express. 2012; 2:15. doi:10.1186/2191-0855-2-15.
Robinson, S. C.; Weber, G.; Hinsch, E.; Gutierrez, S. M. V.; Pittis, L.; and Freitas, S. (2014). Utilizing Extracted Fungal Pigments for Wood Spalting: A Comparison of Induced Fungal Pigmentation to Fungal Dyeing. Journal of Coatings Volume 2014, Article ID 759073, 8 pages.
Seaver, F. J. (1951). The North American Cup-fungi (Inoperculates). New York, Published by the Author, 511 pages.
Tudor, D. (2013). Fungal Pigment Formation in Wood Substrate. A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Faculty of Forestry University of Toronto.
A group of brown mushrooms (Galerina?) with wavy caps growing in wet sphagnum
Thelephora intybacea (?) in sphagnum under black spruce
A very small red mushroom in sphagnum
More autumn mushrooms including a few from the conifer and sphagnum swamps. Their bright and varied colors of the mushrooms light up the shadowy forest floor and green sphagnum. They are more colorful than many of the flowers that bloom here during the summer which are often small and white.
Russula (one of the many red species, perhaps R. paludosa)
This is the chocolate velvet mushroom after a few more days of growing
An unknown species of orange coral funfus
Lactarius thyinos with orange latex.
The mushroom season continues in the fir and spruce forests. Amanita muscaria and Russula emetica are still fruiting prolifically under the conifers and putting on a wonderful display.
As I go through the woods I keep finding more species. There are many I have never seen here before. I have found several as yet unidentified species of coral fungi to add to the property’s species checklist as “unknown coral fungi 1” and so on. There are many new but unknown gill fungi as well. On my most recent walk I found two species of fungus in the genus Telephora (subjects of future posts) and Lactarius thyinos a mushroom that exudes an orange latex when cut. The diversity of fungi growing in the woods, fields, and marshes here is truly amazing.
A yellow mushroom with dark lines radiating from the center of the cap. There were many of these in a small area. A thin film of rain water makes the cap shiny.
Unknown mushrooms on a rotting aspen stump.
Coffee-colored mushrooms. There were only a few of these. The cap is shiny but dry.