Mushroom Log Mar/Apr 2023

This file contains several corrections to errors contained in the document emailed to members. Apologies for any confusion!

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It’s Windy!

Pete Richards

Should I go on that mushroom hike in the woods?  Should I take responsibility for leading others on that mushroom hike in the woods?  These are difficult decisions, especially at the time of an eagerly-awaited outing. How much danger goes along with a certain level of wind?  Web-based weather forecasts provide a reasonable estimate of the wind speeds that might be encountered.  What is needed is related information about the risks of being in the woods with those winds.

An excellent resource ( ) is provided by Kindling, an English company that provides resources for Forest Schools, and I draw on it heavily here, especially for their great diagram of the Beaufort Wind Scale for land.

The scale suggests that winds up to 20 mph are safe, and winds even up to 30 mph are usually safe.  In addition to the wind speed and particularly the speed of gusts, however, a number of other factors should be considered.

What direction is the wind from?  If it is an unusual direction for your area (east?), the trees may be less adapted to it and more prone to damage.  If the wind is coming from, say, the north, and you are entering a large woods from the south, the force of the wind will be diminished by passing through and over the entire woods.

How old are the trees in the woods?  Young trees are more resilient than older ones. Unfortunately, mature woods generally have more mushrooms.

How healthy are the woods? How much deadwood is there?  Signs of decay signal greater danger.  Unfortunately, these are exactly the conditions we look for to find mushrooms!

Be particularly aware of hanging dead branches (so-called “widow makers”).  These can fall in much gentler winds than would be required to break them off in the first place – in fact they can fall with no help from wind at all.

Trees surrounding openings tend to grow into the opening, making them out of balance and vulnerable to falling into the opening, especially under wet conditions.

Some tree species are more prone to the complete breaking off of large branches in strong winds.  Beeches and oaks seem to fall in this category.  But that’s where the boletes are.

Guided by this information, the bottom line is that if you do not feel safe in the woods, don’t go there!  But don’t automatically give up because the forecast is for 15-20 mph winds.  Breezy, yes.  Dangerous? Probably not very.

The Spring Ephemerals

submitted by Glenn Kotnik, Zaleski, Ohio

Imagine a hike in the woods, perhaps the Zaleski State forest, late March, still a few patches of snow but it’s sunny and a promise of warmth in the air. I call this Winter’s twilight. I’ve had enough of winter but it’s not fully Spring yet either, a sort of seasonal twilight before Spring dawns, every now and then, hiking, a flash of green catches my eye, nascent green leaves burst through last season’s brown leaf litter. Occasionally there is a flower as well, but it will not stay around long; it’s very ephemeral. Why?

These so-called Spring ephemerals are not a type of plant, nor a botanical family, but more a specialized botanical way of doing business, plant business, which, like all life, means making more of one’s self, reproducing. The Spring ephemerals have found a way of exploiting the fleeting period of time in the woods that other woodland plants have not discovered yet, Winter’s twilight. They have found a loophole so to speak, a few weeks between hard frozen winter and spring warmth. Soon every dormant tree, shrub and plant will leaf out. Sunlight is suddenly scarce on the forest floor. The Spring ephemerals grab the sunlight before it becomes blocked by bigger and taller things, they flower, attract the few available pollinators and make seed, in the most efficient way imaginable. They are not alone in this risky ecosystem, insect pollinators such as ants not only make fertile seed possible but the insects carry seed of the plant back to their nests where the seed germinates and grows into a new flowering plant. The ant uses the flower nectar and pollen for nutrition, a mutualism or symbiosis. The ephemeral plants have adapted to this twilight niche  like cacti have adapted to the desert.

Notice features these Spring ephemerals all have in common: economy, frugality. They are compact, they grow just big enough to flower and produce seed. Then gone, dormant until next season.

Skunk Cabbage
Symplocarpus foetidis

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
 Drives my green age, that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintery fever.
                                                                        Dylan Thomas Circa 1930

I wonder.  Could Thomas have been thinking of this green fuse, the earliest emerging of all woodland flowering plants, biochemically blasting its way through ice and snow? Notice the net-veining in the spathe, very unusual in a monocot.

Blood Root
Sanguinaria canadensis

The net-veined leaves of blood root are seen very early in spring, the large many-petaled flowers only a week or two later.

Houstonia caerulea

Found in very early spring in small patches.  The four petals distinguish bluets from spring beauty and other early spring plants.

Spring Beauty
Claytonia virginica

The name says it all.

Cutleaved Toothwort
Cardamine concatenate

Many people will remember this early spring flower as Dentaria lancinata, but no longer. That’s taxonomy for you!

Wild Ginger
Asarum caudatum

The distinctive, ruby-colored flower of wild ginger grows at the base of the plant and is often hidden from view by the large leaves.  This photo shows the big heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger growing over the long, light and dark green striped leaves of waterleaf.  It is the roots of wild ginger, not the leaves, that have been used as a substitute for the spice ginger.

Fire Pink
Silene virginica

Not a very early spring flower, but the small patches of intense red add drama to spring. They seem to favor steep slopes making photography difficult, and also difficult for deer to browse.

Star of Bethlehem
Ornithogalum umbellatum

The six petals distinguish this wildflower from spring beauty. This is a common plant in woodland areas but is not native to North America.  It has been imported from parts of Europe and Asia. It is considered an invasive plant.

Large-Flowered Trillium
Trillium grandiflorum

Another flowering plant awaited by many as assuring certainty of spring’s arrival. Flowers of this white Trillium remain overlapping at the base, a feature differentiating it from drooping Trillium and Snow Trillium.

Toad Shade
Trillium sessile

Perhaps the wildflower with the most enigmatic common name. The three sepals curve gracefully but do not hang down below the petals like the sepals of Purple Trillium, Trillium recurvatum.

Large-Flowered Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum with
Rue Anemone, Anemonella thalictroides

The paddle-shaped leaves with lobed edges make Rue Anemone hard to mistake for other plants with six-petaled flowers.

Foam Flower
Tiarella cordifolia

 Another imaginatively named wildflower.  It doesn’t take very much imagination to understand the appeal of this plant.

Wild Blue Phlox
Phlox divaricate

Common later in spring along wooded roadsides.

Looking Forward to a Fungal Year

Contributed by Debra Shankland, OMS President

Happy New Year to all of our readers from the volunteer board members of the Ohio Mushroom Society!  We hope that 2023 will be a peaceful and healthy year for all of us.

We haven’t set a date yet, but we will be meeting near the last half of February to plan our forays for the year, so that the event schedule should be mostly filled by late March.  In the past, some of our members that have the good fortune of stewarding their own woodlands have suggested a foray at their private property.  The benefits to the landowner include a greater understanding of the fungi present on their property, plus the convenience of walking out the door, instead of driving, to attend a foray.  The benefits to your fellow members include discovering a new habitat, and perhaps new mushrooms that are in short supply on Ohio’s few public acres available to mushroom collecting.  Ideal foray locations will have parking for about 10 cars; some type of barn, garage or other shelter; and toilet facilities, but we’ve hosted many forays without such amenities.  If you’d like to discuss this or just want more information on what’s entailed in hosting a foray, please contact me at in January.

The OMS membership year runs from January 1 thru December 31, so please plan to renew now so that you don’t miss an issue of our Mushroom Log, or the newsletters and benefits extended by the North American Mycological Association to our members.  To renew or begin a new membership, just click on the “Join” tab above, download and fill out the form, then mail it with a check to our Treasurer, Jerry Pepera.  Everyone with an interest in mushrooms is welcome in our club, no matter your age, sex, race, religion, national origin, citizenship, disability or socio-economic status.  Students are especially welcome–we will provide you with a free membership!  Just send a copy of your current, valid student ID instead of a check with your membership form.

Watch this space for a guest blog from one of our members next month, and consider contributing a blog or newsletter article yourself.  The Ohio Mushroom Society is what our members and volunteers make us!

The Milk Mushrooms

contributed by Walt Sturgeon

Lactarius and Lactifluus are two genera of macro fungi that exude a liquid (latex) when the gills or upper stem are cut. They are closely related to the Russula genus. They form a symbiotic relationship with various trees including oaks, beech, and conifers. They fruit from May to October and are most abundant in July through September. Until recently they were all considered to be in the genus Lactarius. Tasting the latex of a milk mushroom is a feature in identification. The mild tasting species are edible.

There are some good edibles here and unlike their Russula cousins, they are usually free of larvae. The brownish orange capped Leather Back or Bradley, Lactifluus volemus has abundant, mild, sticky, tasting, whitish latex which will stain most surfaces (including hands) brown. The flesh and latex have a fishy odor which disappears during cooking.  An edible lookalike, Lactifluus hygrophoroides, has gills that are distant to subdistant. Another similar edible species is Lactifluus corrugis, which has a darker, wrinkled cap and has gills that are darker as well. All three of these occur with oaks. Lactifluus hygrophoroides also occurs with hemlock often along streams.

Lactifluus volemus, Pisgah NC
Lactifluus hygrophoroides
Lactifluus corrugis

Some Lactifluus species have latex which is variously described as hot, peppery, or acrid. There are four medium to large white ones. These are only edible after special preparation. Lactifluus piperatus has very crowded gills. Lactifluus also has crowded gills but its latex turns greenish after being exposed for several minutes. Lactifluus subvellereus has sub distant gills.  Lactifluus deceptivus has intermediate gill spacing. It has a veil of tissue when young that reaches but does not attach to the stem. In age there are usually stretchy remnants of this veil at the cap margin.

Lactarius contains some edible species as well. Lactarius subpurpureus occurs with hemlock. It has as pinkish silver cap. It had red latex which stains the cap flesh greenish. The orange-capped Lactarius deterrimus (sensu American authors) occurs with conifers. It has orange latex which stains its flesh greenish. These are in the Lactarius deliciosus group and typically have very sparse latex.

Lactarius subpurpureus

Both  genera are abundant and are good summer to early fall edibles.

Ice Flowers follow-up

Enjoy this addendum from Glenn Kotnik to last month’s blog post about ice flowers:

Last week I was over at my cabin and it suddenly dawned on me that conditions were perfect for formation of ice flowers that night.  All of the understory plants were very wet from recent rain, very saturated with moisture, and the temperature was predicted to drop to the teens that night. So first thing in the morning I headed to my nearby Dittany spot with a step ladder, my LED light panels and cell phone. Too precarious to get a real camera up that slope. Sure enough there were the new ice flowers.

Ice Flowers

contributed by Glenn Kotnik

Late November had been warm and pleasant. Yet when I was awakened by the guttural vocalizations of my boy Flint, I sensed change. The air in my cabin crackled with crisp chill as though the moisture in the air had crystallized and precipitated while I slept. Flint knew we were in for adventure and he couldn’t wait to get me moving. Soon I was warming my fingers on a mug of hot coffee and my toes in front of the fire in the wood stove. My majestic ash trees, all dead not long after the arrival of the ash borers, were still good for one thing.  I was grateful for the many years of sunlight energy stored in their wood being released as it burned.

Flint was insistent on exploring the woods so I loaded him and the other maniac into my Jeep and we drove a short way on gravel roads and parked at the head of a favorite trail. They knew the way and were impatient as I searched the frost covered woodland understory for signs of life.

The solubility of water in air depends on the temperature of the air. When warm humid air very suddenly mixes with colder air, the air can become supersaturated with water vapor. Supersaturation is unstable and sudden precipitation of ice crystals on available surfaces will occur. This was the case with the needles of crystalline water I found on many surfaces in the forest understory that morning. Moss, logs, mushrooms all had glittering deposits of crystallized moisture on their surfaces. The mushrooms were especially interesting, they may have been Galarina marginata, one of the few species beside the Amanitas to contain the deadly hepatic toxin α-Amanitin.

Another crystal formation caught my eye, curled, twisted and contorted, reminiscent of a ram’s horn.

It had been almost 20 years since I had last seen ice flowers, many of them, and in a large group. Now I saw only a single one.  The spot I had seen ice flowers many years ago was only a few miles away so we hiked back to the truck and drove to the location where I hoped I once again find these rare formations. After a brief hike, there they were, the exact location I remembered. Why? What was special about this location that these rare ice flowers formed there?

The ice flowers were up on a very steep slope.  It was all I could do to crawl up the incline by hanging onto saplings with one hand.  With my free hand I took a few cellphone photos.  No chance of bringing a real camera up there. And by the time I returned with the camera, these evanescent blossoms would have returned to the liquid state.

It took a bit of research to get the story of how ice flowers form, why they are rarely seen, and why so often in the same location. They grow from the dry stems of only a few plants, 40 worldwide I’ve learned. In the midwestern United States only Dittany, Cunila origanoides, a wonderful smelling member of the mint family, seems to host ice flowers. After a spell of wet rainy weather, when the air and ground are saturated with moisture, a sudden hard freeze will force watery sap up from the roots and stems of Dittany and out through longitudinal cracks in the stems. This sap freezes suddenly on contact with the cold air.  The result are wide, thin sheets of ice which curl into phantasmagorical forms resembling flowers.

I took a few of the dried stems of Dittany back to my cabin with me and photographed the dried plants. Beautiful plants, with very aromatic leaves. Crushing the leaves releases an aroma almost exactly like the Italian seasoning oregano. Should I? Yes! I put a can of tomato sauce into a pan and added a couple generous pinches of crushed Dittany leaves.  After some time simmering, I tasted a spoonful.  Yuck! Bitter.  So much for that idea.

Later I did a low power photomicrograph of the dry Dittany stems. The longitudinal cracks are clearly visible. If cold moisture were suddenly forced out from these cracks into subfreezing air, one can visualize the formation of ice flowers. But only under certain specific conditions of soil saturation, air saturation with moisture, and sudden temperature drop.

According to Indiana botanist Mike Homoya, Dittany is the only plant in the Midwest that seems to produce ice flowers. He calls Cunila oreginoides a “frostweed”. Only about 40 such species of frostweed species are known worldwide.

Now is the beginning of the ice flower season.  If there is a sudden cold snap after a warm period of rain, go to the spot where you saw the beautiful flowers of Dittany in late summer. With luck you’ll find them.  It’s like hunting mushrooms. But I don’t recommend making spaghetti sauce!

22nd Annual Gary Lincoff Mushroom Foray – Sept. 24, 2022

Whether you weren’t able to make the OMS Summer Foray last month, or you just need another foray fix, consider adding the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club’s annual foray to your calendar:

Guided morning mushroom walks. Afternoon presentations, cooking demo, and mushroom feast. Guest Mycologists Alan and Arleen Bessette and Stephen Russell. Mushroom display, raffle, and merchandise sales. $50 for WPMC members, $70 for non-members includes 2022-23 membership, $30 for students with ID and kids age 11 to 18. Kids 10 and under free. Registration required at

Cordyceps: The Myth and the Mushroom

contributed by Glenn Kotnik (Zaleski, OH)

I’ll start by saying that I have more questions than answers about this elusive fungus. Cordyceps is listed in many “mushroom books,” yet it’s a matter of opinion as to whether or not the fruiting bodies of an Ascomycete, or “sac fungus” should really be called a mushroom. Purists often deny Ascomycetes the label mushroom, however in my neck of the woods, come April, the forest is packed with people hunting “mushrooms” using the term as though Carl Linnaeus himself had created the term mushroom as a royal taxon containing only the Ascomycete the morel. Still stranger is the question as to how the Cordyceps fungus became entwined with predictions of a dystopian future for humanity. So we wonder, what’s a nice mushroom like the morel doing in a Phylum with a harbinger of our dystopian future, Cordyceps? I’m afraid I’m getting ahead of myself here so I’ll back up.

It seems that every time I go on a hike in the woods with my friend Martha Bishop, I learn
something new. For example, early last fall we were out searching for the last mushrooms of summer and Martha showed me something she had excavated from a decaying log. Not really mushroom-looking at all. She explained that species of fungi in the genus Cordyceps are parasitic and have unsavory dietary preferences. They grow into, and then out of, the bodies of living insects, usually larvae or pupae which are in rotten logs or underground. Only the ascocarp, the slender fruiting body of the fungus is visible above the surface of a rotten log or the earth.

Of the 600 or so species of Cordyceps found worldwide, some of these, especially tropical
species, parasitize the living adult insect. As Cordyceps mycelium grows into the live insect, the fungus doesn’t kill the insect immediately. The pupa, larva, or adult insect retains vital functions needed for life but ceases its normal insect behavior. In the case of certain adult insects, it may climb up a plant or tree, seemingly to a microenvironment where temperature, humidity and light are most favorable to the Cordyceps. Here is where science becomes entwined with mythology, scenarios evolve that would cause Kafka to lose sphincter control, our dystopian future looms.

It’s not hard to understand how fungal mycelium growing inside the living organism disrupts
metabolic, neurologic and muscular function with the final result being, as one would expect,
death. To complicate matters, a variety of chemicals are released inside the insect by the
Cordyceps mycelium. Many of these chemicals have been studied for their medical potential. Traditional Chinese medicine has used extracts of Cordyceps fungus for centuries and as with most folk medicine pharmaceuticals, have been said, at various points in time, to cure virtually all human ailments. In the minds of the hopeful, “used to treat” equals “proven to cure”.

One can see how slowly growing mycelium in one’s innards can cause strange muscle movements and very strange behavior as the hyphae enter and begin to digest the brain and neurons. The digestive process is what it’s all about, really; the Cordyceps just wants a bite to eat — it’s a parasite, after all. The disrupted movements of the insect as it is being slowly digested from the inside out have led to the name “Zombie Fungus.” Imagine a world populated by zombie insects, and from there it’s a short leap of the imagination to consider humans becoming infected with Zombie Fungus. Now you can glimpse the occupants of our dystopian future, animated not by their own brains but by Cordyceps hyphae controlling all of their synapses. A grisly future at best.

Hard to believe? For anyone with too much time on their hands, check out the video game from 2013, “The Last of Us” and its sequel, “The Last of Us: Left Behind.” For those who prefer to get their myco-mythology in a print version, try “The Girl With All The Gifts,” a novel available in Kindle or traditional book form. It’s about a young girl, but a girl living in our dystopian future of course, a future which is dystopian because, among other reasons, almost everyone has had their central nervous systems taken over by a mythical species of Cordyceps fungus.

Back to reality, dystopian as it may seem at times. My hiking companion Martha Bishop was
generous enough to give me the Cordyceps specimen she had excavated from a decayed log in a deep Appalachian hollow. First, I did some photographs of the wasp with the ascocarps growing from its head. (Figure1) Ascocarps are the fruiting bodies of Ascomycetes, like the frying pan part of a morel. The ascocarps contain perithecia, a structure which in turn houses asci, the finger-like projections which contain spores. When the spores are released from the ascocarp, some will find their way by chance to another insect host which will be parasitized as well.

Parasitized wasp with ascocarps

The wasp after the ascocarps fell off is shown in Figure 2; mycelium can be seen on the
exoskeleton, presumably Cordyceps mycelium.

Wasp with external mycelium

The dried, shriveled ascocarp is seen in Figure 3.


Next, I attempted to cut thin sections of the wasp after embedding it in paraffin. I put some of these on microscopes slide and stained them with phloxine. I don’t claim to be a trained
microscopist; although I did view many specimens with a microscope in college, my
technique for preparing specimens is poor. It does appear that fungal hyphae can be seen both inside, and external to, the exoskeleton of the wasp. Note the bristles which identify the

Thin slice of Infected wasp
Thin slice of Infected wasp
Thin slice of Infected wasp

There is much more that can be learned about Cordyceps and other closely related fungi.
Those who have not been frightened away or who dread the night when their dreams will be
visited by hungry mycelia can find a huge amount of information available, some reliable,
some more prone to myth. I hope that anyone who hikes the mushroom woods will become
aware of the possibilities of finding extremely interesting and unexpected mysteries below the most banal and unpromising little sprouts. Always consider that it could be the ascocarp of Cordyceps.

The most interesting part of a fungus may be underground.
These little stalks, similar to Cordyceps, grow from a fallen plant seed. They are probably a species of Xylaria.