Field of Science

October Mushroom Foray

Felt a little guilty not posting, especially considering I'm mentioning the blog on applications and such. So have a low-maintenance post for now! It barely even features any protists, but rather some mushroom walk pictures I had lying about since October. Also, this should put me in the right mood to start possibly considering contemplating studying for that mycology lab final next week *shudder*. The rusts are on there, and perhaps some of you might now what that means: that's right, life cycle hell. And structures that vaguely look all the same but aren't.

Most of the fungi one can easily see with unarmed eye in the forest are basidiomycetes, with a few ascomycetes if you're attentive enough. Many more fungal phyla exist, of course. In case you care, the basic layout roughly looks like this: Chytrid-y things (paraphyletic mess at the "base" of the fungal tree; characterised by having retained flagellate zoospores; though apparently a lineage in the Zygomycetes also has flagellates spores – odd...); Zygomycetes (fast-growing fungi, you'd know them if you've ever let food go bad – some of them are the scary tall molds with black-ish heads on bread and fruit); Glomeromycetes (Vesicular Arbuscular Mycorrhizae) – form internal associations with roots; have cool multinucleate spores at one stage; Ascomycetes (moldy things and tiny cuppy things, generally) and Basidiomycetes (your garden variety mushrooms, and other things). Microsporidia – really cool single-celled intracellular parasites with tiny genomes and mitochondrial remains that import ATP, are somewhere in there too, either basal among the chytrids or somewhere around Zygomycetes.

I have only two of the phyla here; but someday, I'll go hunting for chytrid zoospores – parts of fungi that actually move and appear sentient! (partial to motile things here. Which is why I worked on plants for three years. Yeah...) So we begin with a wet log – the Northwest/West coast (depending on which side of the border) has lots of wet logs in the winter. And wet weather. And wet residents. On the left are tiny ascomycete cup fungi; on the right are also ascomycetes with perithecia – flask-like spore containers – (thus Sordariomycetes) or something else. Saw it with ID once before, completely forgot the genus...
(btw you should check out Haeckel's Ascomycota plate – some elaborate pretty cleistothecia there!)

Mushroom-like ascomycete Helvella lacunosa. I love these things – ascomycetes seldom get so conveniently large and common.

A mushroom expert of some sort already beat us to it, as suggested by the carefully trimmed stem of the Helvella to reveal a distinctive structure:

Jelly fungi – contrary to their non-mushroomy appearance, they are, in fact, basidiomycetes:

These are your conventional garden-variety basidiomycete mushrooms. I forget what these are, but there may be something cortina-like (a type of veil) on the second midground mushroom (left of the heavily springtail-infested one) – if that's what it really is, then these would be aCortinarius sp. EDIT: It's Hypholoma fasiculare, or Sulfur Tuft; thanks Emma!

A reishi mushroom – those are apparently prized for medicinal qualities in East Asia, particularly Japan. They're also quite pretty, this isn't the best specimen.

Who can walk by a puffball without feeling a dire obligation to poke it? Puffballs, earthballs et al. are pretty interesting – they're basically degenerate gill fungi where the gill structures become an enclosed mass of basidia and hyphae called a gleba. These 'degraded' mushrooms have arisen multiple times independently, often in dry regions – presumably, since forced basidiospore ejection requires water to work, the selective pressure to keep the gills parallel and well-organised disappears and the mushroom is quickly allowed to lose the structures. Furthermore, dispersal the way of most puffballs – being being hit with something or stepped on – is more effective in those conditions. But the first step was likely the loss of selective pressure driving the maintenance of well-formed gills...

A tick. It was very tiny. And removed and thrown very far away promptly after photo. Ticks are scary...

A big, pretty mollusc for Aydin at Snail's Tales: (anyone got the ID?)
Finally, we return to protist – a slime mould! A
Physarum-like thing, still in plasmodial stage but preparing to fruit soon:
And now I must return to procrastinating with life tackling the intimidating pile of duties for the next couple of weeks. Finals are trivial in comparison. That says something. Something terrifying...

If anyone else would like to organise a magical time warp by next week where we get an extra few days of time, I'm in! Can't we just stop the bloody calendar for a couple days?!


  1. I'll step up as the wanna-be malacologist as say I reckon your slug is an Arion sp (somtimes called "round back slugs" because they have no keel. Might be A. rufus which is called the "red field slug", but soft-body characters in land snails/slugs are notoriously variable.

    Right, now Aydin can come and tell me I'm wrong ;)

  2. Re: the yellow mushrooms.
    1) nice springtails
    2) This is not a cort. First, its growing on a log, not on the soil, therefore it is not mycorrhizal. Second corts never grow in clumps like that.
    3) Looks like Sulfur Tuft: Hypholoma fasiculare. Maybe smells like sulfur, distinctly bitter taste, poisonous.

  3. Thanks, Emma, I was waiting for you to comment on my cort misidentification =P

    I did vaguely remember something to do with sulphur, but my memory for these things is going bad. Are these the same kind that form extensive rhizomorph networks?

  4. Not that I am aware of. I know Armillaria does.

  5. Mmm, yellow jelly fungi! Soak them* in Cointreau** and use them as a garnish!

    * For at least several hours.

    ** or whatever you like


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