From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mushrooms, Mottled with Purple

Unidentified Kentucky mushroom



Dozens of these brown and purple mushrooms have sprung up under the old maple tree. I suppose that the spores were lying on the ground, waiting for perfect conditions, and the several quick, hard rains of last week  activated them. Obviously, they like hot, steamy weather.

I have searched the internet for a couple of hours, trying to find an identified mushroom that looks like these. I've looked at photographs of hundreds of mushrooms, but I haven't found a single one that resembles these at all. Maybe these mushrooms are an unusual variety. Or maybe I'm not recognizing them when I see them in someone else's photograph..

It could be that I'm just not searching with the right terms. It's hard to describe them. Are they orange, copper, brown, or tan? Purple or violet blotches, spots, or mottling?

It wouldn't surprise me to learn that these mushrooms are usually found around old trees whose roots are rotting. Our old maple tree is in decline. It has taken a beating in several ice storms and it's leaning southeast. That's a good direction, if it must lean; our house is on the west side of the tree.

UPDATE 6/30/10

Here are a couple of views of the bottom of one of the mushrooms. I really had to search around to find one that was still fresh. All of them have gone dark brown on their top skins, and I only found one little mushroom that hadn't gone brown on its underside. It is smaller than any of the mushrooms in the photo at top. Isaac brought home a pocketful of Euro change from Germany, and the coin in the photo is one of those -- more or less the size of a half-dollar coin.

The flesh is yellow all the way through. The little dip in the outer margin of the mushroom cap seems to be a feature of the species.  In some of the larger mushrooms that I pulled up while trying to find a fresh one, the stem seems to be set to one side, because the dip was deep and spread-open.


5 comments:

Limey said...

Great photo. I do love a mystery so I decided to ask around.A friend of mine asked the usual questions that a person who has a slight knowledge of these things would ask; 'what colour is the flesh? Does it have gills or tubes? What size is it'? etc etc. In this case not armed with the photo a picture was only worth a couple of words. He decided from my feeble description that it was probably of the Boletus family. So armed with that I went-a-looking. I have plumped for Boletus Erythropus. Look it up on Wikipedia and see what you think. But please turn it over and let me know what it looks like underneath! Knowing my luck it's gone by now.

Genevieve said...

No, there are still plenty of them out there, Limey. I'll look at them closely tomorrow when I'll be home during the daylight. I could call Dennis, but he's probably taking his shower, eating his supper, and all that, and he might not feel like taking a field trip. :)

I looked at the photos on Wikipedia, and it seems to me that if I cut one open, I should be able to tell whether that's it or not.

Genevieve said...

Limey, just a note to let you know (if you are subscribed to the comments) that I posted a couple of photos of the shocking yellow underside of those mushrooms.

Limey said...

Well the jury is back and the decision has been reached. It is almost certainly gyrodon merulioides. I cannot believe how in depth some people take their fungus identification! Sometimes they can only be differentiated by their DNA.I hasten to add that this was not the case here my DNA testing kit is still a pipe dream :). I did not realise that due to the changes during a fungus's life it quite often makes visual identification a bit of a hit and miss affair, hence the need for expert help if you want to eat them. Anyway I hope you can consider it case closed.

Genevieve said...

I'm 100% certain that Gyrodon merulioides is the correct identification. Although I wrote that they are growing under an old maple, I could have written just as accurately that they are growing under ash trees. Two ash trees grow near the old maple, and their roots are undoubtedly in the area.

I also read that a scientific paper, published a couple of decades ago, described a relationship between Gyrodon merulioides and an aphid that feeds on ash roots. Because the aphid is underground, it's apparently hard to eradicate with the usual lawn chemicals.

This mushroom is not toxic, but its flavor is acidic and less than delicious, according to several webpages that I read. I really appreciate the ID, Limey. Thanks!

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