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Mushroom of the Woods – Blushing Wood Mushroom

One of my nearby local parks has a great selection of tree species, scattered beautifully across its modest expanse. It was here that I came across a mushroom more typically found in a woodland setting.

Blushing Wood MushroomAlthough not in woodland, these Blushing Wood Mushrooms (Agaricus silvaticus) had set a comfy foothold near several coniferous trees, enough to satisfy their happy mychorizzal relationship. They were scattered in a small group, so I didn’t want to over pick, just wanted sample a few of these edible and ‘good’ mushrooms.

These mushrooms are quite easy to miss as the scaly ochre-brown caps tend to blend into the background of soil and fallen needles. Luckily, a few tufts of grass helped me spot them easily.

Initially I discovered the larger, more mature examples growing at my feet, with brown/dark brown crowded gills under wide, flat caps; up to 10cm across. So I sought out the younger specimens nearby to see what I was dealing with.

After seeing the reddening on the damaged and exposed flesh, the colour of the gills (pale in young to darker brown when mature), I knew it was an Agaricus species. Iinitially I wasn’t 100% sure it was A.silvaticus because I knew the Scaly Wood Mushroom (Agaricus langei) was so similar. Also, I’d only ever seen A.silvaticus before in woodland scenarios. But this A.langei lookalike was slightly bugging me; its flesh also turns red on cutting/exposing the flesh, but happening more slowly. In the end I was satisfied it was A.silvaticus because the reddening here occurred much quicker. And from a foragers point of view, being unsure whether it was either of the two, they are both edible and good. A smell test will help confirm too; the more stocky A.langei has a distinctive pleasant ‘mushroomy’ smell where as the Blushing Wood mushroom is nothing special – quite bland and indistinctive.

Edibility with surprising health benefits

I wanted to find out more about their edibility, possibly to find any recipes that may be floating around the internet. I know many edible mushrooms are very nutritional, and some which have very impressive health benefits. But I didn’t suspect this species was one of them.

As part of a balanced diet, Blushing Wood Mushrooms are being used to help in the recovery of cancer patients. Along with a high proportion of protein, they also contains a high content of essential minerals, making it a very effective supplement with great antioxidant power. To read further see the article on ‘Wild Foodism’: What Agaricus silvaticus, The Blushing Wood Mushroom, Does For Cancer Patients.

With health benefits like this, it makes things all the better – they were a tasty addition to my fry up (or grill up – doing my best to be extra healthy – or not!). But I must apologise because this has been a delayed post, and if you’re reading it close to when published (ie. late November) you may have to wait until next summer/autumn for a chance to find them again. Sorry!

Agaricus silvaticus

Blushing Wood Mushroom – Agaricus silvaticus. Notice the reddening of the flesh, which eventually turns brown.

QUICK ID TABLE: BLUSHING WOOD MUSHROOM Agaricus silvaticus

CAP / FLESH

5-11cm across, covered in light brown fibrils which expand into larger soft flat scales. Initially rounded, expanding flat. Flesh is white, quickly turning red when cut. Bland, indistinctive smell.

STEM

5-8cm x 1-1.2cm. Whitish. Ring 3/4 up, sometimes with brown fibrous scales beneath.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

Pale when young, then reddish, eventually brown at maturity.
Spore Print: Brown (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

In mixed woods, or parks near trees. Summer to autumn.

EDIBILITY

Edible and good.

LOOKALIKES

Scaly Wood Mushroom (A. langei)

The Genus AGARICUS (Wood Mushrooms/Mushrooms): Characteristics to look out for:

• Many discolour yellowish, reddish or pinkish when cut or bruised.
• Those that discolour bright/chrome yellow should be avoided for consumption.
• Gills in young specimens are often pink (white in a few) – maturing darker brown.
• Make note of any smells, such as aniseed or a typical strong ‘supermarket’ mushroom smell.

Fawny coloured Deer Shield

This common wood-rotting mushroom has a variable season. It is prolific in summer and autumn, but if conditions are mild enough, it can appear as early as April or early winter if the weather is favourable.

Pluteus cervinus The Deer Shield or Deer Mushroom (Pluteus cervinus) is one of the most common Shield mushrooms; and like nearly all of this genus, it is found on dead wood, stumps, logs and also wood chippings. It is a saprobe; getting nutrition from the dead wood and essentially breaking down the organism. It’s all part of life’s beautiful tapestry.

The cap of this particular Pluteus is smooth with variable colouring; mainly shades of brown (fawny like), but it can be paler and young specimens can be quite dark, as shown in the photo below. Subtle streaks can be seen radiating around the surface. Most often there is a slightly prominent central bump (umbo).

All mushrooms in this genus have a pink spore print and their gills are ‘free’ from the stem (See my other post on the Willow Shield mushroom here). They are initially white in colour, but over time they take on a pinkish hue as the spores mature. This is a good identification characteristic, albeit dependent on its age! Look around for older specimens if you can.

The stem is white and often becomes streaked with darker yellow-brown fibres as it ages. Also take a look at the base, where it usually is slightly swollen.

Edibility-wise there’s not much going for our lovely Deer Shield, but it still is edible (although it may not agree with some). The flesh is white, delicate and thin with a slight odour and taste similar to radish. I found a great blog tackling this culinary challenge, see here for a little advice on the subject: http://foragerchef.com/the-fawndeer-mushroom-pluteus-cervinus

Why the Deer name?

When I was first aware of the common name, I assumed that ‘Deer’ was simply in reference to the colour. But apparently this is not so. Under the microscope, small cells (known as cystidia) present on the edge of the gills, show long protusions  that are crowned with two tiny ‘horn’ shapes which resemble antlers – hence the ‘deer’ reference. Cervinus is also derived form cervus which is Latin for deer. You learn something new everyday!

I hope have luck finding these handsome mushrooms some time soon, as well as any others you may find along the way. Enjoy.

Deer Shield Mushroom

Pluteus cervinus – The Deer Shield. Top middle: a Younger convex/darker example. Bottom: Giils initially white, turning pink as the spores mature.

QUICK ID TABLE: DEER SHIELD Pluteus cervinus

CAP / FLESH

4-12cm across. Initially bell shaped/convex; flattening out with age, Often with a raised central bump (umbo). Flesh is white; smells and tastes faintly of radish.

STEM

7-10cm x 05-1.5cm. White; later becoming streaked with darker brownish fibres.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

Free. Initially white, turning pink.
Spore Print: Pink (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

Dead wood, fallen hardwood trees and sometimes woodchip. Mainly autumn but sporadic throughout the year. Very common.

EDIBILITY

Edible. Not considered particularly good.

The Genus PLUTEUS (Shield): Characteristics to look out for:

• The majority grow on wood or woodland debris/wood chippings etc.
• Gills always free, slowly mature from white/pale to pink.
• Pink spore print.

Fool me once… The False Chanterelle

I love to feature all the lovely wild edible mushrooms I find (when I get the precious time), but every so often I have to include those annoying ‘look-a-likes’ so that we can all be aware of and be prepared for such party poopers!

Hygrophoropsis aurantiacaThe False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca) is a very common and strikingly colourful mushroom, predominantly found in small to large groups, mainly in coniferous woodland. They can also be found on heathland too.

Although this mushroom is mainly an autumn species, I have often found it during late summer (just like the true Chanterelle) around early August, hence the reason I’m featuring it now at the end of July.

Myself and many other people have made the same mistake in thinking their luck was in – “Chanterelles – Fantastic”. Oh, how wrong we were. The Chanterelle (Chantharellus cibarius) has the same fruiting season (including late summer), habitat (as well as deciduous woods) and general size and appearance.

And as always, the devil is in the detail when distinguishing between the two. Size-wise, they can be very close, but other feature differences would seem quite obvious if you had either species side by side. But if you’re unfamiliar with both, then here’s what to look out for:

1. The Colour: The False Chanterelle tends to be a deeper Orange-Yellow compared to lighter egg yoke yellow of the True Chanterelle.

2. The Cap: The False Chanterelle has a fine ‘downy’ surface texture (esp. when younger). The True Chanterelle has a more distinctive ‘irregular’ wavy and lobed shape all round the edge.

3. The Gills: Although they both extend down the stem, The True Chanterelle has ‘false’ gills which are thicker and more fleshy.

4. The Smell: The False Chanterelle has a ‘mushroomy’ smell while the True Chanterelle has a very distinctive fruity, apricot-like odour.

3. Spore Print: To double check, you can take a spore print – False Chanterelle = white / True Chanterelle = Yellow/ochre.

Unfortunately, I don’t currently have any (True) Chanterelle images to show in comparison. I will add when I can at a later date of course.

The False Chanterelle has been known to be edible just like the True Chanterelle, but obviously not as superior in flavour etc. Some reference books have labelled it as harmless, but even though it isn’t deadly there have been reports from some people suffering unpleasant or alarming hallucinations. So I would recommend that nobody eat this mushroom.

And to finish, by adding confusion to the confusion, there’s are ‘look-a-like’ to this ‘look-a-like’ which I think most people in Southern Europe should be concerned about. The Jack o’ Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus olearius) has patchy distribution throughout Southern Europe (with rare sightings in UK and Northern Europe). Again, it looks very similar to the True and False Chanterelles but is definitely posionous. Have no fear though, these guys usually grow in tight groups on living or dead wood of deciduous trees (from the underground roots) so that rules out the others and the major feature the Jack o’ Lantern has is that it’s (mature) gills have an amazing phosphorescent property and glow very bright green in the dark. This I know only from research and I would love to find some and see the effect in action. So that’s a good excuse for a holiday in Southern Europe then aye!?

Keep your eyes out this Late summer/autumn time and I hope your Chanterelle hunting moments don’t get ruined by this naughty twin.

Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca

QUICK ID TABLE: FALSE CHANTERELLE Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca

CAP / FLESH

2 -8 cm diametrre. Convex to funnel shaped. Often inrolled at the edge (margin). Orange-Yellow.

STEM

3 – 5 cm x 0.5 – 1cm. Often curved. Same colour or darker than cap.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

Decurrent, forked. Orange, thin and crowded.
Spore Print: White (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

Coniferous woods, heaths. Very common. Late summer – autumn.

EDIBILITY

Said to be edible but reports of hallucinations recorded.

Buried Bunny? The Hare’s Foot Inkcap

This mushroom has a long fruiting season and depending on what time it is discovered, it can appear to be a different fungus altogether…

I have come across the Hare’s Foot Inkcap (Coprinopsis lagopus / Coprinus lagopus) as early as May right through to the late autumn months. It gets its common English name from the way the young ‘furry-like’ fruiting body is reminiscent of a hare’s foot – albeit poking up from the ground (hence my tasteless post title).

This Inkcap mushroom is usually found in small groups and matures into relatively tall specimens (up to 12 or 13cm in some cases). They’re usually found on soil or leaf litter in woodland (sometimes in rarer field scenarios).

But quite often, as in this case, they especially seem to enjoy taking to wherever there has been man made disturbance in woodland. There had been a huge pile of woodchip/bark mulch, left by the recent activity of forestry workers. There were dozens of them, in several groups spread across one side of the large mound.

The white(ish) veil remnants are numerous on the young caps, which are very delicate and disappear on handling. The cap expands to almost flat, thinly spreading out the fine fibres on it’s greyish and finely grooved surface. During this ‘growing’ stage, the young white gills soon turn black and deliquesce (turning to inky fluid) typical of nearly all the Inkcaps.

The long white stem is also covered in fine white fibrous scales but usually end up becoming completely smooth.

If you do find some of these Inkcaps coming to the end of their life, you’ll notice the cap curls upwards as it decays. And if you pick and hold up the mushroom to the sky (gills towards you) you will also see it is very translucent due to the very thin flesh. All interesting stuff.

Anyway, they’re pretty common throughout the UK and unfortunately inedible as they’re not really worth the time. Never mind eh!?

QUICK ID TABLE: HARE’S FOOT INKCAP Coprinopsis lagopus / Coprinus lagopus

CAP / FLESH

Young: 2-4 cm high, conical or ovate, covered in fine downy white veil remnants. Mature: Up to 6cm diametre, thin, grey. Covered in whitish veil remnants.

STEM

6-13 cm x 0.3-0.5cm. White, swollen at base. Covered in fine white down. Smooth later.

GILLS / SPORE PRINT

White, turning black very soon and deliquescing.
Spore Print: Violaceous black (see how to take a spore print here).

HABITAT / SEASON

In groups on soil or leaf litter in woodland (less so in fields). Commonly found in disturbed woodland areas on wood chip or mulch. Early summer to late autumn.

EDIBILITY

Inedible. Too insubstantial.

The Genus COPRINUS & Related (Inkcaps): Characteristics to look out for:

• Most species gills dissolve into an inky black liquid as the black spores ripen.
• Growing on the ground, wood or dung.
• Many young species have woolly veil. Felty scales are often left on the mature specimen.
• Smaller species have distinct radial markings on the cap.

Coprinu lagopus © Mark Williams 2012.

This great picture of an older Coprinus lagopus was kindly supplied by Mark Williams at www.gallowaywildfoods.com – Notice the up curling edges and see how much of the dark inky fluid, containing the spores, has dissipated, leaving a lighter, translucent cap.

Spring Madness – Blewits in May!?

After a recent enquiry to the website asking the same question I was asking myself, I was spurred on to feature this post and it’s very ‘out-of-season’ theme!

Lepista nuda - out of seasonThe Wood Blewit (Clitocybe nuda / Lepista nuda) was in good supply during it’s normal season in late autumn/winter. Scattered in Woods, gardens and hedgerows, there was always a chance to spy a few and take them home for your tea.

But during April and this early May time, the weather has been very wet and weird, and at times unseasonably cold.

I’m not sure, but this could be one factor in explaining why myself and others have been finding delicious Wood Blewits out of season. My first discovery was in April – 3 weeks ago and just recently this weekend in May.

It’s all very strange and I’m not sure if I should be happy or alarmed! And I don’t especially want to get into that global warming argument either. But mushrooms are often unpredictable and can waver in and out of season now and again – but I have to be honest, these critters are extraordinarily pushing the limits!

I did notice with my recent discoveries that they were both extremely close to rotting wood. They do feed on dead organic matter (saprotroph) but this is usually hidden underground. The picture (shown above) were of two Blewits actually on the edge a decaying stump, but the substrate they were in was a fine mixture of rotten wood and rich soil. The others were found in a similar scenario, hugging a fallen tree trunk, again in a very ‘peaty’ like soil. I can only guess again that this could be a contributing factor. The soil must have been very rich in nutrients ideal for our little Lepista!

Anyway, keep your eyes peeled, you might see some yourself this May. Who knows?

PS. For further information on Wood Blewits in my posts and further identification notes, see my other two posts here: ‘Blue Legs for Winter – The Wood Blewit’ and ‘Snow patrol – Wood Blewit’.

Wood Blewits

Late in the season – Wood Blewits found in April and May.