Daughter has been a fan of mushrooms for a few seasons now and we are always excited when Fall comes around and brings out the mushrooms. I confess I greatly share her excitement at collecting and identifying our Forest Fungi ! Here is a description of a recent hunt, excerpted from this week’s Learning Report:
We collected mushrooms on our hike and spent the next morning identifying them. We had found a large specimen of Short-Stemmed Russula, (Russula brevipes) which we learned were some of the earliest mushrooms of the season. Daughter was particularly excited to identify this because we were able to most certainly check off every description on the list (sometimes we are not sure about a feature or two). Usually I read out each description in the list (using our wonderful book All that the Rain Promises and More) and Daughter says “yes” or “no” while she examines the specimen.
She has come to know that Russulas and Milkcaps have stems that break like chalk; they are also very common in our forests and by far represent the majority of our finds. We don’t find as many milk caps, however, and she finds the fact that they exude a milky substance when broken to be particularly “cool” so she’s hoping to find one (we did once last year). We also found a great many Russulas with pinkish caps, and were interested to find out that they were Emetic Russulas (Russula emetica; also called the Sickener Mushroom and pictured in the above photo), which as the name implies causes vomiting if ingested. We knew these were not Rosy Russulas, which look similar, because ours had white stalks and the Rosy’s have reddish stalks. Here is a photo of one specimen we did not pick as a Banana Slug was enjoying it as lunch. Daughter commented that apparently slugs “did not mind” the poisons!
Note: in trying to find a link to the Rosy Russula I came across this page. It seems our specimen may, in fact, be Russula silvicola since we were most definitely not in a sphagnum habitat! Such are the problems of identification. We really should use the Internet more but it’s not handy to have a computer next to a bunch of dirty, insect-laden mushrooms! Plus we both enjoy looking through the books. We’ll have to keep our eyes open for more Mushroom Manuals (one that comes recommended by our “all the rain promises” author is Mushrooms Demystified, which I think will be on an upcoming Amazon order!).
We also found a lovely specimen that was tall, all pale grey, with a distinct volva (Daughter always giggles when she hears this word, thinking it is interesting that it is so close to the word “vulva” when it has such a different function!). At first we thought we’d found a Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) but upon reading further we realized our specimen was most likely a Grisette. It definitely fit the description of “exceedingly handsome”, and apparently they are edible, so much more benign than the Death Cap. We compared the descriptions for two Grisettes, Amanita constricta and Amanita vaginata and Daughter decided ours was the former, the more rare of the two species. It was hard to tell because our mushroom’s volva had been damaged in transit and the distinguishing feature is whether the volva is pinched at the base. Daughter was certain it was when we found it, but I think she liked the idea of having the less common species!
Given our findings of poisonous (and almost poisonous, in the case of the Death Cap) we were pleased to recall that, at the Ecology Centre, we’d been told that even poisonous mushrooms need to have their fibres broken down to release the toxins, so merely touching them cannot transmit the poisons.
We planned to make spore prints but unfortunately they were full of maggots (which Daughter found adorable and fascinating but I insisted absolutely could NOT be kept in the house – I like insects, but maggots creep me out!) so we put them outside and then promptly forgot about them. It rained heavily the next day turning them into mush. However, I collected some more today so next week we’ll report on what we found and the spore prints we made!