Friday, October 7, 2011

Confusing Fall Fungi

The moist, shaded woodlands east of "the Point" create an ideal habitat for many species mushrooms. As often as not it's difficult or impossible to identify relatively featureless white fungi from a photo, but the dark gills, the short stem and the double annulus indicate that this a group of Banded Agaric (Agaricus bitorquis) ... "bitorquis" means two collars and is a reference to the twin rings.

The Smooth Lepiota (Leucoagaricus naucina) can easily be mistaken for one of the white amanitas. However, the swollen base of this mushroom lacks the cup formed by the remnants of the universal veil, and the thin annulus or ring is often loose and can easily be moved.

A picturesque group of Lepiota cristata. This mushroom makes up for its good looks with a reputedly unpleasant odor (I didn't check this out in the field), hence its common name of Stinking Parasol.

The following two pictures were taken a couple of weeks ago. Obviously this is a tooth fungus – Hericium sp. – but what species? There wasn't anything quite like this in my field guide or on the Internet.

Here's the same fungus revisited, and two weeks have made a lot of difference. This is a Bear's Head Tooth Fungus (Hericium americanum), much easier to identify now that it's older, or to use a popular idiom – longer in the tooth.

Looks can be deceiving – judging by the "teeth" along the edges this appears be a species of tooth fungus. Actually, it's a polypore, Phlebia tremellosa, related to the bracket fungi ...

... and what seem to be a group of small "bracket fungi" growing on a twig turn out to be gill fungi, Crepidotus variabilis.

Schizophyllum commune is another polypore impersonator. Schizophyllum means "split leaf" – with its continually self-replicating pattern I think of this as the "fractal fungus".

A look at its underside establishes Schizophyllum commune's place in the fungus family tree ... this is a species of gill fungus.

Are these small fungi some kind of puffball?

The dry, spongy interior produces copious amounts of brown spores in the manner of a puffball. But these aren't puffballs, they are a species of slime mold called Wolf's Milk (Lycogala epidendrum) in the final stage of sporulation.

A photo taken in mid-August depicting Wolf's Milk (also called Groening's Slime) in an earlier stage of growth.