Nature Notes

Vol. IX September, 1931 No. 9

Features of Our Fungi

The distribution of mushrooms and toadstools is of great interest, not only to the botanist, but to all who traverse the mountain trails. "How did it get there? Did anyone ever find this plant here before? does it always grow singly or in company with others of its kind?" If we find it difficult to understand the ways of folks it is far more difficult to make out the ways of mushrooms and toadstools. An enthusiastic collector tells us that on returning to his favorite collecting ground she always makes the rounds of all the stumps, snags and logs in search of species found there before, and that it is the exception rather than the rule to find them in places previously visited, although the visits be paid on corresponding dates of consecutive years.

This Park almost attained distinction, botanicaly speaking, recently, when two puffballs, closely related to the famous sculptured puffball of the Sierras (which has never been collected anywhere except there and at Crater Lake) were collected by R.A. Diettert of the University of Idaho in the Eastern part of the Park. It appears as if these two were the advance guard (name, Calvatia coelata) to ascertain if their species could bear the more rigorous climate here. It must be noted that these specimens, while perfectly formed, were small. One of them has been loaned by the collector and may be seen in the Park Museum at Longmire.

One of the most abundant species, (russula delica) appears to lead a life of extreme seclusion, the growing plant lifts a solid mat of forest humus - always watch for "lumps" on the forest floor; you may discover something interesting - and merely peers out on one exposed side to note what sort of world it is born into. This mushroom has many drops of fluid hanging from its delicately-tinted gills while in the growing state, suggesting that it is a "Lactarious), or milk-producing fungus, - but it isn't! it is said that there are no two peas alike in a pod - neither are there any two caps of another abundant species, "painted" alike, appearing in their fanciful garb of ochre pink, and brown in varying proportions. It is only after careful scrutiny that one pronounces them all the same species, (Russula bicolor).

two mushrooms

The plant which appears on our cover is the gayest of all deceivers, flaunting extreme variations in color from brightest persimmon through orange, yellow, and ochre, or the caps may appear almost without color. No wonder that people are often deceived in selecting mushrooms for their tables. Two characters, however, may be relied upon - a collar on the stem and a swelling at the base, known as the poison cup or volva. We have this species in the Park, (Amanita muscaria), but not in large numbers.

We may mention that our puffballs, which, though never attaining large dimensions, are always safe to eat if collected when fresh and firm inside like cream cheese. They may be eaten raw in salad or delicately fried in butter. More people are beginning to realize the good food to be found at our very doors, only requiring a little effort to collect. If one breaks up irregularly at the top it is Calvati.

Have you ever seen teeth on the under sides of the caps of fungi? Watch for these, for you may make an enviable find, as plants with spores borne on teeth are comparatively rare. We are still hunting for the lovely orange-capped Hydnum (H. floriforme), which appears to be unknown in the west, and is very rare even in the east.

The splendid trees in the Park, which appear so sturdy and strong, except for the frequent uprooting by windstorms, really have many serious enemies, though fewer, it appears, than in many other localities.

Certain species of fungi follow certain species of trees. We have occasionally the chalky quinine fungus, (Formes laricis) on Douglas Fir. Quinine is made from this plant. The Weeping Fungus, (F. dryadeus) is found on White Fir. Watch for it, for it is most rare in the northwest. Some species will grow on many different trees. The Velvet Fungus, (Polyporus Schweinitzii) is of this sort. It is a beautiful fungus, but most destructive, as it grows on living trees, sapping their life-blood. Death is sure to follow in time if a tree is attacked by this plant.

-- Elizabeth Eaton Morse,
Sec'y California Mycological Society,
Berekeley, Calif.

two mushrooms (calvatia and pavillus)

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