A Fungus Among Us

A mushroom walks into a bar

The bartender states “we don’t server your kind in here”

“But I’m a Fun Guy” responds the mushroom.

This was actually an opening joke at a work presentation.  Trust me, the rest of the material was better.  Each presenter led with a bar joke – when you’re in a multi-hour strategy session anything to lighten the time is welcome.  Besides, it provided the perfect lead into my latest blog entry.

We are in overtime this month but this set fit the “something different” theme.  When it comes to fungi (I hope you got that joke earlier) I am a total neophyte.  To put it in perspective, I had no idea what a morel was until we were invited to a hunt by our new neighbors about 6 years ago when we moved into the new house.  Apparently if you live in the woods you are expected to be a morel hunter.  After someone finally explained to us what one looks like we headed out into the woods with zero guidance on where one might find these supposedly good eats.  Eventually Linda and I found one.  We took it back to the gathering area and low and behold we won the “biggest morel” contest.  Note, I can definitely tell you these rather cute orange mushrooms are NOT morels.

Oh, I do know one other thing about mushrooms.  Do not eat a mushroom unless you absolutely know what it is.  This should go without mention – it’s a fungus – why in the hell would you want to put that in your body .. IT’S A FUNGUS.  From what little research I did, this must not be as obvious as one would think because 95% of the websites visited during that research explicitly stated that warning  somewhere on the site – translated – someone has been sued.

Hit the jump to read a little more about these fungi and others.

Figuring it would be easy to identify these colorful mushrooms, the first stop was Google Images.  Just need to find a similar picture, click the image and get the name.  No big deal right.. wrong!  It was like sparrow identification on steroids.  Thousands of mushroom shots all looking slightly different or having multiple names.  2 hours into it the realization came that this was way beyond my capabilities.  Color isn’t enough of a distinguishing characteristic.  Per the reference sites you need to know what is under the cap – gills, spores, etc.  Add in the morphing stages and now this field no longer intrigues me beyond the “purdy” colors.  The orange specimens above and the yellow shroom below were found on a Porcupine Mountain trail.  Linda was off taking pictures of a waterfall so my time was spent exploring the surroundings – scouting new locations so Linda doesn’t have to risk life and death for a dried up waterfall (ask her about a recent experience in Nevada hehehe).  These mushrooms caught me eye so decided to get them in the tin.

I think the above yellow specimen is a Yellow Amanita.  This based solely on finding a picture that had a very similar look.  According to our fiends over at Wikipedia, this particular mushroom is common in the Eastern North America.  We were more central at the time but close enough in my book.  Now for the kicker.  Wikipedia lists this mushroom’s edible status as “unknown”.  Really?  With all the technology we have today we can’t determine if we can/should eat this thing.  I just saw a study on whether the 5 second rule was valid or not.  This eat or not to eat quandary seems a lot more important that whether a kid should eat a hot dog that flopped onto the ground.

While uploading the new set of mushrooms I found one that was taken at Wildlife Prairie Park.  Again, no clue what is but it caught my attention because it looked exactly like one of those prehistoric Harpetida.

And now for some shots of a fungus that shows up on our property from time to time.  I have always called this a shelf fungus because .. it looks like a .. wait for it.. a shelf.  Education would be a breeze if they simply let me name everything.  But no, we need academic doctors trying to impress everyone with their Latin skills.

These are not the best shots thanks to some poor lighting conditions in the forest, but you can hopefully see how they look like polished and varnished mahogany shelves.  You would think this would be a piece of cake to identify but mahogany shelf fungus didn’t produce anything exactly like it.  The shapes came close, but most of the samples they had looked old and dried up.  Clicking through the options it does look like a Hemlock Varnish Shelf Fungi or Ganoderma Tsugae for those so inclined.  The Google Images listing look a lot closer than the images Wikipedia has on their site.  Could also be an Artist’s Conk  but those looked flatter and duller.

The one mushroom I can identify now is the Giant Puffball, but of course, I forget to get a picture of those.  These giant white puffballs (basketball sized marshmallows) caught us off guard the first time we were walking our new property.  They look like giant Invasion of the Body Snatcher pods!  Uh, honey, what kind of property did we just buy!?!

That’s all for now – Morel season is on its way .. well, once the snow decides to melt – 50 yesterday, snow again today.

3 thoughts on “A Fungus Among Us”

  1. Well, after I waited and waited I never saw a photograph of a morel here!! Dying with curiosity, I went to Wikipedia to look at this fascinating fungus, but it wasn’t particularly fascinating after all. Best line there: “It has been reported that even cooked morels can sometimes cause mild intoxication symptoms when consumed with alcohol.” Darn those morels!

    If I were sent out from a party to find a morel and didn’t find any, I would come back and say I was “more-or-less morel-less, which is to say morel-y lacking”. Which may be why I’m not invited to these parties, despite being such a Fun Guy!

    That Yellow Amanita looks cute, and would look even cuter if its cap weren’t discolored.

    Thanks for the post on the Kingdom Fungi!

    Ron

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  2. Sorry, no morel photos – figured Linda and I are were the only ones who didn’t know what they were. Other than being a dull color, you can’t honestly say they are not that fascinating – the structure of them are highly unique and almost look like those old sponges you used to wash your car with. Our friends covet us for letting them shroom hunt on our property – and there are always people trying sneak onto our property and steal them. I’m sure I didn’t read that right – could the intoxication come from the alcohol consumption or is that just crazy talk.

    I envision you spending at least an hour trying to wordsmith that joke – cute but definitely a groaner – it is also more like Mo RELL as opposed to More All… pretty much guarantee if I said that we’d be immediately stricken from the future invite list!

    Actually that Amanita specimen had less than normal wartage on it – figured it was pretty new and hadn’t properly fungused up yet. (+2 for made up words in that sentence).

    Glad you enjoyed – personally I’m allergic to penicillin so I’m not getting to close to mushrooms and certainly not putting one in my mouth!

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  3. I was also thinking I could hand the cut morels to my wife and tell everyone she has loose morels.

    I am also allergic to penicillin, but that doesn’t make a difference–I don’t eat mushrooms on pizza or, God forbid, eat one of those huge standalone ones.

    Ron

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