Sunday, October 25, 2015

Urban mushroom diary - autumn update 5

The previous chapters of this diary are: part-1part-2, part-3 and part-4. This might go on while the urban mushrooms season lasts. I don't know when that will be.

10 October 2015 - Revisited the park at the outskirts of Hoek van Holland. This park lies between the suburbs of the village and the dunes. It feels old and wild. Does that still count as "urban"?
A beautiful autumn day with parents and children searching for fallen chestnuts. People walking their dogs. No one looking for mushrooms. The Dutch are myco-phobic.
The park was full of these mushroom clusters. A very common species, but what a head-ache it gave me to find it. Finally I think it's Armillaria mellea. For such a common mushroom this should not have been so hard, but none of the pictures in books nor on the Internet really fit the shape and the markings. Finally this guide gave me certainty. The mushroom is bioluminescent but I did not check in the dark:
Bioluminescent fungi emit a greenish light. The light emission is continuous. It has been suggested that beneath closed tropical forest canopies, bioluminescent fruit bodies may be at an advantage by attracting grazing animals that could help disperse their spores. Conversely, where mycelium are the bioluminescent tissues the light emission could deter grazing.
The situation is made even harder because young mushrooms look totally different from old mushrooms. You don't have these problems with "normal" plants. This species is often mistaken for Hypholoma fasciculare or Pholiota aurivella but neither of those gives a good match. Dutch Wikipedia says it's inedible, Czech Wikipedia says that after cooking it's edible and tasty. A big difference between myco-phobic and myco-philic cultures!

Finally I became so desperate that I did an image search in Google, expecting no answer. And I was pleasantly surprised when Google found one very good match of Armillaria mellea.
In the same park I also found a few possible Armillaria lutea. This genus has some surprising members. Strange how such a primitive life-form can feel so ancient and majestic. Like communing with living fossils or aliens:
A mushroom of this type in the Malheur National Forest in the Strawberry Mountains of eastern Oregon, U.S. was found to be the largest fungal colony in the world, spanning 8.9 square kilometres (2,200 acres) of area. This organism is estimated to be 2,400 years old.
I also plucked one of the hypothetical Marasmius oreades to get a better look at the gills. The mushrooms were old, spent and dry, but they seemed to confirm my initial identification. The ecology also matches: "frequently growing among coastal grasses in dunes." These should be edible and very good.
A cluster of tiny mushrooms on a rotten log could be Mycena arcangeliana. It is probably no Psathyrella because these are dark-spored mushrooms and I see no dark colours on the gills. This is an older cluster and the caps have started to dry out. And the angelic name reminds me of the strange theories about mushrooms and Christianity.

I've become aware of the big changes that mushrooms undergo during their life-cycle and it makes identification even harder. And it increases my wonder at these elusive creatures. I don't believe the strange theories of Terence McKenna but could they be "intelligent" in some non-human manner? Distributed, self-organizing, aware of their surroundings and goal oriented?
Finally a mysterious white blob that could be Oligoporus stipticus. There's a great French video of this species on YouTube. A very thorough description that's almost Zen-like in its attention to details. It should be inedible and extremely bitter: I should start tasting my specimens, but I'm afraid.
And let's finish with a summary from H.P. Lovecraft:
Those fungi, grotesquely like the vegetation in the yard outside, were truly horrible in their outlines; detestable parodies of toadstools and Indian pipes, whose like we had never seen in any other situation. They rotted quickly, and at one stage became slightly phosphorescent; so that nocturnal passers-by sometimes spoke of witch-fires glowing behind the broken panes of the foetor-spreading windows.

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