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March Mottlegill – The Turf Mottlegill

Spring has arrived and the clocks have gone forward. And like most people, it tends to make me feel a whole lot more happy about things in general. Even so much so that I actually mowed my lawn since before Christmas. This is a good thing, because shorter grass will bring out those early spring mushrooms. Guaranteed.

Turf Mottlegil - Panaeolus fimicolaOK, so these little babies aren’t edible (but neither poisonous) but it’s good to see nature once again spring into life (excuse the pun!), especially when it’s literally in your own back garden. I’m talking of the common Turf Mottlegill (Panaeolus fimicola or Panaeolus ater).

The Mottlegills are a family of small to medium small mushrooms that can occur from spring or summer through to autumn and/or early winter. They get their common name from the ‘mottled’ appearance on their gills (when younger) as the black reproductive spores ‘unevenly’ mature.

These little beauties can pop up in their dozens all around in the short grass, and are initially very hard to spot. I think most of time they go unnoticed. Their caps, when young, are around 1cm in diametre and can grow up to 4.5cm. But if they’re on your own lawn they don’t really last long and get knocked down or crushed. Poor things!

As with many mushrooms, their appearance can change as they mature. In this case it is the colour of the cap and gills. When they first appear, their button small caps are a lovely dark brown (especially when wet) and their gills are a very light brown/greyish colour. After a couple of days the cap dries a paler tan colour, from the edge of the cap inwards. So you can really get some different brown colour combinations going on.

Also, to help with identification, the slender brown stem (around 2-5mm thick) is covered in a very fine white ‘frosty like’ down.

All in all, these are lovely little spring mushrooms, which carry on popping up all the way through until autumn. And as I said, don’t worry, they’re not in the least bit poisonous. They’re too cute for that!

Even though this mushroom is not edible, as always be cautious. There are very similar Panaeolus mushrooms that are poisonous. For example, the common Brown Mottlegill which appears from June to November has been known to contain psilocybin (the psychedelic ‘magic mushroom’ cocktail) which can cause unpleasant symptoms. In fact, even the famous ‘Magic Mushroom’ although not deadly has (and recently discovered) sinister twins which are very dangerous in ways of attacking the liver. It’s best to avoid all these kinds of mushrooms and stick to beer! Hoorah!

Turf Mottlegill Pictures

Young Turf Mottlegill / Drying tan brown from margin / younger pale gills & mature black gills

The Genus PANAEOLUS (Mottlegills): Characteristics to look out for:

• Small pale or brown mushrooms.
• The spores mature unevenly; giving a ‘mottled’ effect on the gills.

Small and Brown! What is it? Winter Edition

I often hear from my friends various stories from their travels in these winter months. They sometimes stumble across ‘small and brown mushrooms’ – “What are they?” they would shout! Without really being there, that was really quite a tough question!

Winter Twiglet Mushroom (Tubaria hiemalis)Small and brown mushrooms usually mean ‘nightmare identification’ to most people. But if it’s a winter mushroom (ie. January/February) I at least have the advantage of elimination.

Apart from the Velevet Shank mushroom, there’s really not much out there this time of year. But there are still quite a few typical ‘mushroom-shaped’ species scattered around (ie. not a bracket fungus).

And recently I myself have come across a certain small brown species, found in mid-january. They were growing in abundance along the side of a grassy woodland path, among the dead leaves and general wood mulch.

Mushrooms!? Ground mushrooms this time of year!? What’s going on? Yes, to be fair, it’s not your typical find and I was keen to fathom out what on earth they were.

As you’ve probably guessed, these mushrooms were new to me, but I always entertain myself in the process of identification (I know I should get out more …but I already was!) Anyway, after much research – both online and churning through my extensive literature – I learned I was dealing with the ‘Tubaria’ group of fungi (in the family of ‘Cortinariaceae’ to be precise!)

Many books out there (even some of the heavyweight ones) do not not include many from the Tubaria group of mushrooms. But luckily, after a lot of cross referencing, I believe I’m dealing with Tubaria hiemalis (Winter Twiglet) – one of the more common species which grows from September to February. And before you ask – No, it’s not edible! Not poisonous, but simply tastes bad. Shame!

Well, there you go. You may see some scattered around the country side or near your home even. Key identification info and characteristics can be seen at the end of this post in the ‘Quick ID notes’.

Winter Twiglet (Tubaria hiemalis)

These older specimens of the Winter Twiglet grow from late autumn through winter to early spring in woodland debris/mulch. The caps of younger specimens appear more uniformly round, and almost balled shaped, sprouting from the ground, when very young.

Winter Twiglet Identification Chart