Thursday, September 19, 2013

Stink Horns and Fly Agaric Mushrooms

On this small point of Wisconsin land that gently bulges into Pike Lake there must be several dozen species of trees from larch to maples. Last week something in nature aligned with trees, weather and decaying earth because the ground gloriously released hundreds of mushrooms. Everywhere. Some as big as dinner plates and as soft as Nerf balls, others so tiny and camouflaged you would never spy them unless you stared at your feet for a hundred years.
WI Cabin
Pike Lake Cabin

Boletes Not sure what kind. Perhaps "Red Cracked"
I saw lots of boletes - distinguished by a hundreds of tubes on the underside giving them a sponge-y feel and appearance. Dozens popped in the grass just outside the cabin door - golden nuggets blending with the yellow leaves that are beginning to fall from the maples. I was sure they were  larch boletes and I collected them, determined to eat them later. We found several fairy rings - mushrooms that are supposed to be delectable, but we decided we needed more information on them.
Fairy ring mushrooms
A Fairy Ring

Fly Agaric 1
Immature Fly Agaric (Aminta muscaria)

Fly Agaric 2

Two of the most fascinating species (I can't identify that many) were unmistakable. Aminita Muscaria - the beautiful poisonous Fly agaric. I love finding this legendary mushroom of fairy tales and wood elves. When young its round cap varies in shade from orangey-red to straw yellow and sits perfectly round on a white stem. The cap is covered with white or pale yellow warts. As it matures it flattens and broadens into a plate that can range from three to ten inches across. It attracts flies who lap up the sticky surface with their little tongues, go into a dizzy dive and fall dead. Apparently there are folks in Siberia (and who knows where else) who risk enjoying the hallucinogenic properties and live to tell. But I guess its a gamble, not everyone survives. So how good could the trip be? Or how bad your life? (I never fail to exclaim.)
Stinkhorn Mushroom

Denis alerted us to a stinkhorn mushroom. Yes, it stinks and yes, it's shape is disgustingly hornish. He had wandered over to a bench near the water and got a whiff of something so revolting he looked around thinking he had stepped on a rotting carcass. As he peered into the grass he noticed an odd-looking mushroom. It was about six inches long and the cap was covered in an olive-green evil-smelling slime. As Denis wafted the air my direction I took an involuntary step back. By the end of the day it was covered with flies and black beetles fighting for a place at this slimy table.
I never fail to wonder at the strangeness of mushrooms. At their mycelium which lurk unseen in rotting wood, garden soil, even in the foundations of our homes, at their fruiting bodies suddenly appearing out of nowhere in mind-numbing varieties. That they can be literally drop-dead gorgeous and kill you in a single bite or be so delectable you crave them like crack cocaine. All these things are why I am bewitched by them and that God should make so many! As many as the stars, perhaps.


liz@carpeseason said...

I have never seen nor heard of a fairy ring! That is downright magical. Love the glimpse into your mushroom adventure!

sf said...

Wow, magical, interesting, and way cool mushrooms! You're so talented to try to identify 'em and all. Goodness, I'd be so hopping happy if I walked out of my house and saw so many! Thanks for sharing your home mushroom outdoor collection!