The Trouble with Names & Colors & Descriptions

At home in the woods

At home in the woods

One of the challenges of trying to learn mushrooms’ names is that they keep changing.  By the time a book is published, the mushroom’s name may have been popped from one genus into another — and sometimes back again.  And sometimes they just change the name altogether based on new studies.

So species’ names can be a nightmare to get right!

Remember the purple mushroom I posted a photo of a few days ago?  I thought I had the name aced.  Then Dave, the mushroom expert on my board wrote this:

Small orange mushroom--whose name I don't know yet.  :)

Small orange mushroom–whose name I don’t know yet. 🙂

There is a southern NA species that looks just like Cortinarius iodes, except it isn’t. The name is Cortinarius iodiodes (not kidding), which means “looks like Cortinarius iodes.” The difference between the two species is strictly academic.

We’ve been going back and forth trying to identify this yellow suillus.  The concensus is that it’s probably a Chicken Fat Suillus (Suillus americanus), even though it is supposed to be very slimy.  And the ones

Suillus americanus (Chicken Fat Suillus)

Suillus americanus (Chicken Fat Suillus)

I’ve found are not at all slimy.  Also, going by the color descriptions in the books doesn’t help a lot.

The following is from Michael Kuo’s Mushroom Expert site:

… depending on the amount of sunlight and the precipitation the color of individual fruiting bodies varied from one weather period to the next (even in a single day).

Or as Dave Fischer, the author of Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America, once emailed me in response to my question about why one of my mushroom photos didn’t look like the same mushroom in his book: “They don’t know that they are supposed to look exactly like the ones in the book.”  😀

The Boletes are Coming

two small boletes with parasitic mold

Two small boletes already showing signs of parasitic mold

These are the first boletes that appear in my yard each summer.  The bad news is that they are always immediately parasitized by a mold that I have tentatively identified as Hypomyces chrysospermus.

The mold starts on the bottom on the pore surface around the stalk, then spreads until the mushroom is completely disfigured.  And it is poisonous.

The good news is that the delectable boletes are on the way.  And the parasitic mold doesn’t affect the other ones.

a larger parasitized bolete

A larger parasitized bolete

I also have seen small puffballs in the yard the past week or so.  David Fischer, in his book Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America, says that many of the small puffballs are edible.  But the ones with tough rinds (that you can’t cut easily with your fingernail) are poisonous.  These little puffballs have a leathery, tough rind, so even though they are perfectly white in the middle, I leave them alone.

[Edited:  I have since identified these puffballs as Lycoperdon Marginatum.]

If you have the slightest interest in learning about wild edible mushrooms, I would strongly recommend that you get Fischer’s book.  I have a small library of mushroom books, but Dave Fischer’s is the only one that gives a set of identification keys that completely rule out poisonous lookalikes — IF you conscientiously follow them.

closeup of mold

Closeup of mold

I am really excited that the bolete season is finally underway.  I hope to have a lot of mushroom photos to share with you before too long!

discolored bolete flesh from Hypomyces chrysospermus

Cross section of parasitized bolete

tough rinded little puffballs

Small, leathery skinned puffballs.

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