The Colourful world of Lepiotas — Eat this, not that!

Hi all!

What a great month to be a mushroom! We’ve had some serious humidity, a few good rain blasts, and the temperature fluctuations that come with the turning of the seasons.  Autumn can’t last forever, so grab the best of it and make it count!

With that said, we got a great email from some friends of the fungi, asking if we could help ID some ‘shrooms that had popped up in an ordinary houseplant. Even though the plant had been in their home for a couple of seasons, these mushrooms were a complete surprise — and were abundant! Thanks to the cool photos they sent us, and some digging in the ID books and online, the verdict came pretty clear — it looks like they had a nice little colony of Yellow Lepiotas emerging!

lemon-yellow-lepiota
Now here comes the fun part: they’re poisonous!

A common hitchhiker in the soils of many household potted plants, occasionally the conditions become ripe for the mycelium of this species to produce a number of lovely little yellow mushrooms. These dandies grow quickly into 5cm-wide gilled umbrellas, and retain some of their yellow colour as they expand.

This particular mushroom puzzle was especially fun because here at Fundy Spores’  home base I’ve spent the last few summers observing the life cycle of a related species, the Reddening Lepiota. The first time these fruiting bodies appeared, it was obvious that their white mycelial threads had voraciously colonized some old straw that was nearly completely decomposed. That straw was later dug and moved into garden beds, and the Lepiotas reappeared among the veggies. Another garden bed that was optimized with additional woodchips this year produced several small flushes of mushrooms, and by this time I felt solid enough in the ID to trust my research and try eating them! As it turns out, they’re great. I like how they hold enough mushroom texture to not get lost in a dish, but you’d never describe them as “hearty” — I wouldn’t say they’d be a “feature” in a meal, but more of an excellent go-to seasonal mushroom to collect while I’m out picking veggies for a late-summer stir-fry. I’ll be adding more Lepiota-friendly organic material (straw, woodchips) to that bed with the experimental aim of having an abundance of these tasty treats next year.

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Reddening Lepiotas appear in the garden

reddening-lepiota-for-blog-2-more-red

See how it becomes more red with age?

So while one family finds poisonous Yellow Lepiotas, another begins a hopeful journey into encouraging prolific fruitings of the Reddening Lepiota.

A little unexpected symmetry in life can bring such inspiration, don’t you think?

(Before I go, I’d like to send a shout-out to the 6 year-old mycophile whose curiosity over the little yellow specimens started this whole conversation!)

Remember, myco-mateys: in fungi (as in soap operas) sometimes the ones you love have dangerous relations. Be careful out there, and until you’re really sure of a species’ edibility (and your own ability to accurately identify an individual specimen as a member of that species), heed the wise words of our friends in that classic 90’s PSA: “Don’t you put it in your mouth (don’t you stuff it in your face)!”

Take a walk on the wild side!

Howdy fungi folks!

This’ll just be a quick post to say a belated “Thanks!” to the fine people at Bullygoth Farm, who recently hosted super group of enthusiastic myco-newbies on their land, and invited me to lead the mushroom excursion portion of the workshop. Sacha and Jimmy were gracious hosts and made the whole experience a blast!

Alongside numerous LBMs and other small, delicate, gilled mushrooms, some of the highlights were the chance to encounter Cheese polypores, Red waxy caps, Chaga, Laccaria orchropurpurea , a clump of coral mushrooms (too far munched by forest beasties to narrow the field on that one) and one lonely chanterelle (sidenote: a recent walk in the Fundy Spores forest also turned up a singular orange fruiting body: a sign of hope, but certainly not the abundance some people are lucky enough to come across at this time of year!). Although we didn’t see it on the group walk, the previous evening Sacha and I even spotted our bioregion’s most notorious mushroom; the (deservingly-named) Destroying Angel.

Destroying Angel

Destroying Angel at Bullygoth Farm

Beautiful and deadly, there are a small handful of closely related Amanita species that are collectively known by this colloquial name.

Beginners to mushroom foraging are best to stay away from eating any mushrooms that are white with white gills, and are warned to avoid eating small white button mushrooms (like Horse and Meadow mushrooms) before they have developed enough to be identified with certainty. Admittedly I’ve consumed some oyster mushroom relatives with white flesh and gills and lived to tell the tale, but that was after observing the species and its seasonal re-emergence, doing a lot of research, and taking spore prints to be sure. Even after all that, I still followed the best practices of keeping samples aside in case I did get sick, to expedite treatment should it become medically necessary (or in the worst case, provide evidence as to the possible cause of my demise). One such example is known by the common name “Angel’s Wings” and while it’s not a relative of these Amanitas, and is sometimes listed as edible, there have been some cases of illness linked to its consumption.

Puffball mushroom collectors should also be sure to cut each specimen in half and make sure that the inside is all spongey like a marshmellow, and does not contain the body of a developing Amanita inside (the young Destroying Angel is enveloped by a “universal veil”, essentially making it look like a little white mushroom ball).

Watch this space for more about poisonous fungi, soon to come!

If you’d like to book a guided mushroom walk on land that you’re connected to (can be privately-managed woods or local public forests), contact us!

Thanks also to all the participants who attended and made the mushroom walk such a success — I loved sharing our common passion for mushrooms and ecology together!

Until next time, stay wild!