Field of Science

With June rains come mushrooms

There was a time the Phactor was quite good at the identification of fleshy fungi, but alas, not enough practice of late. The near record rainfall of June has begun producing quite a diverse array of mushrooms. This morning several Boletus bicolor had appeared over night along with a very handsome Russula emetica (dull red cap, snow white gill, white flesh, very brittle). Several others are not known by sight. Had to practice my fungal ID skills for a vet who was worried that a dog might have been poisoned by mushrooms in his owner's yard. And you always must worry about IDs when something is on the line. In this case it was a pretty easy one, Coprinus atramentarius, an inky cap mushroom that is edible unless you're drinking something alcoholic at the same time, and then it produces some most unpleasant symptoms (sometimes this mushroom is called the Tippler's bane). You can also make ink from this mushroom as they dissolve themselves into a black inky goo. Coprinus is quite well known for popping up quickly after rains. Unfortunately this provided no assistance to the vet because the dog was a non-drinker, but you feel bad for not having an answer.

Like many people he regarded most wild mushrooms as poisonous, toadstools. Now what do toxic mushrooms have to do with amphibian furniture? While in grad school a grand old man of mycology told the Phactor that "toad" was really "tod" (German for death), and stool was being used as in "stool pigeon", a decoy, thus implying that non-edible mushrooms were "death-decoys". Some people are way more mycophobic than others. A few years back the Phactor scored quite a harvest of horse mushrooms (Agaricus arvensis), a close relative of the mushroom of commerce as it's picture shows, except these grow in your lawn and bruise yellow. Some guests were treated to a wonderful mushroom sauce, and when one woman asked where these delicious mushrooms came from, and yours truly gestured to the side lawn, and said, "From under than oak tree.", she almost became physically ill from the thought of being accidentally poisoned. Well, as they say, you know they were good mushrooms if you wake in the morning.

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