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!

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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

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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)!”