Waiting for Morels

Pete Richards

I have a very good friend in Slovenia with whom I share interests in mineral collecting and in enjoying edible mushrooms. Mirjan and his wife Marija roam the local forests, collecting a great variety of edible mushrooms. Some are familiar to me because of closely related American species, and many are not. Mirjan often sends me pictures of the results of their latest foray – a table full of one or several kinds and colors of the currently available species.

But Mirjan has always been jealous of any morels that I find (I report my successes, of course). He always says that no matter how hard they look, they never find any. Apparently they don’t grow around there, he says.

So about the beginning of April, I got the following message from Mirjan, with the subject “unbelievable”:

You would probably recall my lamentations on morel mushrooms that we couldn’t find in spite of all our efforts. 

This morning Marija told me that some strange mushrooms were sprouting in our garden. As a matter of fact we had four days of a steady rain that was hardly expected because not a single drop fall in March. When I stepped out I couldn’ t believe my eyes. There were true morels growing in our garden – subspecies Morchella conica var. Costata. As of today, nine of them. The largest on the photograph is about 7 cm tall.

Last year we decided to revive our garden a little bit and changed a green layer of I-don’t-know-the-name-of-green-plant that covered that portion and covered it with tree bark. It seems that the morels were always there but we didn’t noticed them under the green cover. It is, namely, obvious that they grow from under the slabs. I’ll wait for a day or two to see if they will get larger, otherwise they will end on a plate. I look forward to eating them.

And a couple of days later:

It was evident today that the morels had gained in size, but I couldn’t resist any longer so they fell victim to my appetite. Marija prepared them with spaghetti and cream — delicious.
 
I made two photographs on April 3 and today, and put them side by side in approximately the same scale. See the attached file. I’d say that the largest one gained about 25% in four days, which was not enough to wait any longer. Who knows, maybe a wicked and greedy snail would come by and eat away all of my decades long efforts.

It may comfort some Ohio morel hunters to know that the frustration of a failed search is widely shared. Still, I would not recommend the strategy of waiting for them to appear in your garden!

Summer Foray registration closed

What? But it just opened!

Indeed. Response to our member announcement regarding online registration for the Summer Foray was immediate and overwhelming! Clearly we’re all jonesing for some time in the woods. We’re so sorry that we can’t accommodate everyone who wants to attend – it comes down to space limitations.

If you are a current member and would like to be placed on the waiting list, you can email Lonelle Yoder to make that request. Please include your phone number and the number of adults and children in your household who would like to attend.

In the meantime, keep an eye on our Events Page for a mini foray near you!

Membership Renewal Reminder

If you haven’t sent in your annual membership dues yet, now’s a great time to do that!

Here’s how: Print the membership form, fill it out, and mail it to the address on the form, with your dues.

Here’s why: After two years off, we’re finally getting back to offering our 2-day Summer Foray in July. However, responsible organizing in COVID times dictates that we limit attendance to allow for social distancing. This means Summer Foray attendance will be by registration only, and spots may fill quickly. “Early bird” registration will open soon for current, paid members – so get that membership form and check in the mail!

(If you’ve signed up for a life membership, of course, no renewal is necessary)

Members, look for an email within the next week or so with foray details and a link to the online registration form.

Of Slimes and Slimariums

contributed by Crystal Davidson

Sneakily slithering, seeking sustenance, single celled slime molds slowly slide through the forest…

It takes a keen eye, and a good amount of moisture to catch a myxomycete! These tiny friends of fungi are often found on dead wood, but can sometimes even be seen creeping across your lawn.

The first myxo that ever caught my attention was Arcyria denudata, which I first saw in a field guide. I immediately loved the common name “Cotton Candy Slime Mold”. Getting to meet one in real life, however, was even more thrilling, as the tiny pinkish red fruit bodies really do evoke memories of the fluffy fair food! One of the most prolific slimes in our area is Fuligo septica, which has the stomach-churning common name of ‘dog vomit slime mold’. Since I’m not a dog owner, I can’t speculate as to the visual accuracy of this name, but I’d guess it exists for a reason. You’ll often find it creeping through a flower bed in urban areas, though it can be found in the wild as well.

There are also many species of Trichia, Hemitrichia, and Metatrichia that frequent Ohio. Careful examination of the subtle features of the fruiting bodies can sometimes aid in distinguishing them. For instance, this specimen is most likely Hemitrichia clavata, which looks very similar to, but has a more elongated cup at the base than H. calyculata.

Hemitrichia clavata

Another common myxomycete is Physarum polycephalum. “Polycephalum” means “many headed”, and the fruiting stage makes it clear from whence this name came. In the plasmodial stage, P. polycephalum can be difficult to distinguish from Badhamia utricularis and other myxos, but most slimes can’t be identified solely from this stage. Once they fruit, however, the differences are obvious. P. polycephalum usually fruits upwards, away from gravitational forces, whereas B. utricularis typically hangs down.

A fun thing to do with myxomycetes is to capture them and bring them home to start your very own personal slimarium! To create one, you’ll need an enclosed container to keep in both your slime and any unexpected visitors that may sneak home with you. An old fish tank with a bit of plastic wrap over the top worked quite well for me, although any clear enclosure will suffice. I added some large rocks, well decayed pieces of log, a few handfuls of live moss, a bit of water at the bottom, and I periodically misted inside to maintain humidity. When you’ve found a specimen, simply remove a small bit of the substrate along with the myxomycete, and carefully transport it back to the tank. In a pinch, you can even use a clear plastic food container with a moist paper towel at the bottom as a living area.

While slime molds love oats, and they are a consistently consumed food source, I’ve found it to be more interesting to offer them a variety of foods and see what they prefer! They typically love mushrooms, though they have strong preferences on which they will eat. Pleurotus spp. are always a favorite, Postia sp. was not a big hit, they only eat the bacteria off the surface of the Trametes versicolor, and they absolutely abhor Rhodotus palmatus. Additionally, they will eat pasta and the bacteria on the outside of acorns, but despise raspberries and broccoli. This is an example of how slime molds navigate to make choices and select food source.

If you’re wondering how this blob-like organism moves, it does so through a pulsing locomotion. The slime forms “veins” which are wrapped in proteins that squeeze, creating a wave like effect. The waves move forward and recede slightly less with each pulse through the finger-line extensions known as pseudopods. You can see the progress over time here, as well as the ripples of the waves in the second photo.

Since I was eager to find out exactly what my most recent slime pet was, I forced it to fruit by denying it food. Despite the fact that myxomycetes can perceive light and typically avoid it, when they are ready to fruit, they will sometimes climb up to a high point, which may help to increase the range of the spore dispersal. I was quite pleased to discover upon fruiting, that this specimen was in fact Physarum polycephalum, which is often used in lab studies, including the semi-famous study of slime molds solving mazes.

Physarum polycephalum fruiting body

Now you might have thought this story was over at the fruiting, and I did too! Imagine my surprise when after a few months of not introducing anything new into the slimarium, a second slime suddenly appeared! Remember, they are sneaky! In the plasmodial stage, this Arcyria cinerea doesn’t look much different than its roommate, P. polycephalum. Once it fruited, however, the differences were obvious.

Arcyria cinerea fruiting body

It is also interesting to note that there are some fungi that feed off of slime molds. I only discovered this Polycephalomyces tomentosus feeding on this Hemitrichia calyculata once I got home and was editing my photos. Next time, I’ll try to be more observant of the even tinier things.

Polycephalomyces tomentosus feeding on Hemitrichia calyculata

To learn more about these fascinating life forms, consider also joining the Facebook group Slime Mold Identification & Appreciation, which was even mentioned in the recent NOVA special on PBS, “Secret Mind of Slime”.

Mushroom Log Jan/Feb 2022

Due to the plethora of color photos in this newsletter, the file is fairly large! If you’re having problems viewing or downloading from the links above, try this lower-resolution version:

Full archives of past newsletters are available to members on the members-only portion of the website.  Join now!

Winter Mushrooms

While we’re all gazing at the snow and dreaming of summer, enjoy these photos from OMS Board member Pete Richards of the mushrooms he found in Lorain County one one of those balmy days we had in December!

Galerina sp.
Exidia recisa
Stereum complicatum
Panellus stipticus
These puffballs have puffed their last puff
Tolypocladium longisegmentatu
Phebia incarnata
Stereum ostreum
Lycogala epidendron
some unidentified fellows (possibly Mycena?) demurely tucked away in a hole
Trametes betulina
…and last, but certainly not least, this stunning Trametes versicolor

Notable Events in 2021

by OMS board of volunteers chairperson Debra Shankland

Your volunteers in the Ohio Mushroom Society were happy to return to offering in-person forays in 2021.  Although we took another year off from large, full-weekend forays, nine limited-participant mini forays were conducted in Ashtabula, Columbiana, Darke, Hancock, Lorain, Perry and Portage counties.

In addition to our own events, our members were informed via email about local mushroom-themed movies and regional events hosted by others, such as a two-hour mushroom ID webinar hosted by OSU Extension.

Our Mushroom Log newsletter had undergone a change in editors in the past year.  We appreciate Bob Antibus for taking on this huge task, and thank Dave Miller for his many, many years of putting together this interesting and informative read.  We conducted a survey of our newsletter readers to gauge their interest in the Log’s different departments, and importantly, their willingness to receive the newsletter electronically only.  A large majority welcomed the change, which will allow us to feature full-color photos, resource links, and even more pages without the limitations of print starting in 2022.

In addition to our formal newsletter, six blogs were posted to this website in this past year, providing recipes, humor and timely tidbits.

If you value all of these services, don’t forget to renew your membership for 2022.  OMS memberships run from Jan 1 – Dec 31, and lifetime memberships are offered as well.  Another benefit of OMS membership is a discount on the North American Mycological Association membership, saving you $5.  You can check out NAMA at https://namyco.org

Finally, I’m going to boast that OMS was listed as an important resource in a two-page color spread in the 6 Oct 2021 issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, leading their “Taste” section.  We take pride in helping people further their knowledge and appreciation of fungi, and it feels good to be recognized for our efforts.

Look! In that field! Are those horses or crocodiles?

contributed by Pete Richards

Well, of course, they’re mushrooms.

For the last several years, I have found large mushrooms of the Agaricus group very late in our season – mid-October to mid-November.  I have seen these primarily near my home in Oberlin, but also at several locations along Route 2 from Maumee State Park to Oberlin.  Individual “buttons” can reach a pound in weight, and they often occur in rings where it is possible to gather several pounds of mushrooms from a single ring.

Mushrooms are white, typically slightly scaly, and tend to occur in clusters.  Unopened caps can be the size of softballs; the stems can be several inches in diameter.  The cap separates from the stem during growth, leaving a prominent ring.  The gills, when first exposed, are tan-pink, and become almost black with age.  The odor is of almond, but not as strong as what I think of the typical Agaricus arvensis, the horse mushroom.  The spore print is dark chocolate brown.

In attempting a better identification of this Agaricus species using MushroomExpert.com, I was surprised to discover that there are hundreds of species (nationally).  I was thinking in terms of three species –  A. arvensis; A. campestris, the meadow mushroom; and an uninteresting woods-dwelling species that I thought I remembered seeing pictures of.  Working through the lengthy key of 100(!) species, I encountered A. crocodilensis, noted for its large cap.  It seems to be a better choice for my specimens because of its scaly cap – the key indicates that A. arvensis tends to be smooth.  But the distinction based on field characteristics is very minor, and may not always be reliable.

So, are those horses or crocodiles in that field?  I really do not know.  Given my resources, I cannot know with certainty.  I do know that they are locally and seasonally abundant, large, pretty distinctive, and, for me, edible and tasty. These mushrooms sauté very nicely when cut into spoon-sized pieces.  The almond smell is conspicuous early, but apparently cooks off, as it disappears before most of the liquid is boiled away.  The resulting mushrooms have a nice solid texture and a good flavor, and they freeze well. Given the right place, it is easy to gather a winter’s supply of frozen mushrooms in one outing.

This commentary should not be construed to invite casual eating of mushrooms that the reader may think are the same species.  Neither the author nor the Ohio Mushroom Society warrant the edibility for you of this mushroom, or a mushroom you may find and think is the same.  The actual species in this commentary is not known.  It is known to be edible to me, but others may not have the same experience.  If you think you have found the same mushroom and wish to eat it, follow the standard procedures:

* Use all resources available to you to identify what you have found
* If you choose to eat the mushroom,
– cook it well
– eat only a small bite for the first time; imbibe no alcohol
– if you have no bad reaction, try a bit more, but still be cautious
– keep a sample of the mushroom to give to poison control if you have problems