The Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) is a distinctive gilled mushroom found in parts of North America, Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. The cap is covered with irregular, white warts, and, depending on age, weathering, and subspecies, the cap color ranges from bright red to orange to yellow to white (the Yellow-orange, or guessowii¹, subspecies is shown here).
Also note the bulbous base, the membranous ring on the upper stalk, and the white, free (meaning they're not attached to the stalk) gills -- three features shared by members of the genus Amanita. Though the genus contains some edible and medicinal species, many others are strictly toxic.
A Peterson's Field Guide² describes the Fly Agaric as "a well-known intoxicant, reported to produce sensual derangement, erratic behavior, delirium, deep 'death-like' sleep, and in some cases, death." Many other sources simply call this species poisonous.
To view the following images in full-size, click here.
¹Many sources call this subspecies formosa.
²A Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants (1998) by Steven Foster and Roger Caras, page 200.
Trichaptum biforme is a common decomposer of wood and is widespread across North America. The fruiting bodies of this shelf fungus average 1-2" wide, and like Turkey Tail, often grow in crowded colonies. But whereas Turkey Tail has smooth, whitish pore surfaces, the pore surfaces of Trichaptum biforme are spine-like and violet-tinged, explaining a common name for this species: Violet-toothed Polypore. This mushroom is neither edible nor medicinal, but is nonetheless worth getting to know. For more info and photos, visit MushroomExpert.com. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)
Trametes versicolor is a wood-eating shelf fungus who can be found year-round in much of North America. It's common to find large logs covered with hundreds of these hairy, leathery fruiting bodies. (Michael Kuo's article covers how to separate this species from similar fungi.) The top colors vary widely but often include blues, browns, and creams; the outer margin is usually white. On the underside of these multi-colored shelves is a white or nearly white pore surface with thousands of tiny openings. This species is commonly known as Turkey Tail.
Greg Marley writes at length on the medicinal properties of T. versicolor (or extracts thereof) in his book Mushrooms for Health: Medicinal secrets of northeastern fungi (2009) and reports that, "Turkey Tail is the best-researched and most clinically tested of the medicinal mushrooms, at least by allopathic medicine standards" (p. 82). A formulation of Turkey Tail known as PSK is a leading anticancer medicine in Japan, often prescribed in combination with radiation and chemotherapy. (Read Marley's chapter for more details.)
Turkey Tail is too leathery to be consumed in whole form, but fungi foragers can prepare hot water decoctions (broths) and/or double-extraction tinctures of this mushroom. Just be sure to gather only actively growing mushrooms, with white growing edges and fresh pore surfaces. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)
Last moon, while scouting for mushrooms, I walked right past this sizable, fleshy fruiting body growing at the base of a large Oak (Quercus sp.). Luckily, Jenny was with me, and she didn't miss it.
"Whoa! Josh, check that out," she exclaimed.
"Now that's a mushroom," I replied as I doubled back along the trail.
Minutes later, we shared our find with a mother and daughter (and their friendly canine companion) who were out for an afternoon ramble.
Back at home, I consulted my nature library and some online resources and found a name for this brain-like mass: Sparassis spathulata (syn. S. herbstii and S. caroliniense) or commonly the Eastern Cauliflower Mushroom. Have you ever bumped into one of these?
For identification details, visit MushroomExpert.com.
Today marks the end of my Mushroom Moon Challenge which began on September 14th. I observed well over 30 species of fungi including many species I've previously profiled:
Craterellus cornucopioides (Black Trumpet)
Fomes fomentarius (Tinder Conk)
Ganoderma applanatum (Artist's Conk, pictured above)
Ganoderma tsugae (Hemlock Reishi)
Hydnum repandum (Hedgehog Mushroom)
Inonotus obliquus (Chaga)
Piptoporus betulinus (Birch Polypore)
Suillus americanus (White Pine Bolete)
I got to know a dozen or so new-to-me ground-dwelling species and took a closer look at many familiar-to-me wood-eating species. Below is a gallery of some of the fruiting bodies I observed during my moon-long challenge. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)