Category Archives: Fungi

Long-spined Puffball (Lycoperdon pulcherrimum)

Long-spined Puffball

Photo by Ben Heath

Long-spined Puffball (Lycoperdon pulcherrimum) is a beautiful, small to medium-sized puffball. It is found in the fall, alone or in small groups, on ground under hardwoods or on very rotten wood. It is common in the southern United States, uncommon in Minnesota.

Long-spined Puffball is more or less pear-shaped, about 1½″ in diameter and 2″ in height. It has a globe-shaped top and a sterile, stalk-like base that is usually well developed but sometimes inconspicuous. The top is white and densely covered with spines when young, dark brown to dark purplish-brown, shiny, and smooth at maturity. The slender spines join at the tips in groups of 2 to 6 or more creating numerous pyramid-shaped clusters. They remain white until they are shed or wear away, leaving no marks on the outer layer. When mature, a pore-like mouth develops at the top of the puffball through which spores are released by wind and rain. It is edible when it is young and the flesh is firm and white.

Several spiny puffballs are found in Minnesota. Curtis’s Puffball (Vascellum curtisii) spines and outer layer remain white at maturity. It usually occurs in clusters. Gem-Studded Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum) stem is substantial. The top is flattened and is covered with short white spines interspersed with white granules. The spines wear off by maturity leaving scars on the pale brown outer layer. Spiny Puffball (Lycoperdon echinatum) spines and outer layer soon turn brown, changing color together.

Jack-o’-Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus illudens)

Jack-o’-Lantern Mushroom

Photo by magic mountain mushroom hunters

Jack-o’-Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus illudens) is a poisonous, bioluminescent, gill mushroom. It is found in woodlands growing on the trunk or stump of a hardwood, especially oak, or on the ground gaining nutrients from tree roots. It gets its common name from its bright orange color, its appearance around Halloween, and its eerie green glow in the dark. One report had it bright enough to read a newspaper by. More trusted sources suggest that the light is very faint and may not always be visible to human eyes. To see the light it is suggested that a person take a fresh, actively growing specimen into a closet, close the door, and wait 30 minutes for their eyes to become accustomed to the dark. Only then a will dim green glow be visible… or not.

Jack-o’-Lantern Mushroom is usually small and found in large clusters, occasionally larger and solitary. The cap is yellowish-orange to orange. The flesh is more or less the same color as the cap. The gills on the underside of the cap are narrow, closely spaced, not forked, and emit a green glow.

Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) is similar in appearance but has a long growing season and can be found in the spring. It is usually solitary. The flesh is white. The gills are forked, shallow, and thick.

Black Trumpet (Craterellus fallax)

Black Trumpet

Black Trumpet (Craterellus fallax) is a common and widespread, edible mushroom. It occurs in deciduous and mixed woodlands across North America but is especially common in the east. It fruits from July to October on the ground, usually under oak, beech, and possibly other hardwood trees. It is often missed because its shape and color allows it to blend in with its surroundings. It sometimes stands out in sharp relief against a green carpet of moss.

Black Trumpet is trumpet-shaped, hollow in the center, tapered to the base, dark brown to black above, and pale below. There is no sharp distinction between the stalk and the cap. It has a fruity fragrance reminiscent of apricots.

Black Trumpet is distinguished by its blackish-brown, trumpet-shaped fruiting body; smooth or only shallowly wrinkled underside; and whitish to pinkish-orange or yellowish sport print. It is similar in appearance to three other “black trumpet mushrooms”, all of which are edible. Ashen Chanterelle (Cantharellus cinereus) has a bluish-black or bluish gray underside that is conspicuously wrinkled with shallow, primitive gills. Blue Chanterelle (Polyozellus multiplex) has a purple or dark blue tinted cap. Horn of Plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides) has a white spore print but is otherwise indistinguishable. It is common in Europe but much rarer in North America.

Bright Cobblestone Lichen (Acarospora socialis)

Bright Cobblestone Lichen

Bright Cobblestone Lichen (Acarospora socialis) is very common in southwestern United States. It is the most common yellow member of its genus in the southwest, and one of the most common lichens of any kind in the deserts of Arizona and southern California. It is uncommon in Minnesota, where it has been recorded only in Cottonwood County.

Bright Cobblestone Lichen is up to 4″ wide and may be crusty, appearing sprayed on like paint; leaf-like, with thin, flat, lobes; or cracked, appearing somewhat like cracked paint. The upper surface is usually bright yellow or greenish-yellow when fresh but may be bleached white with age.

False Turkey Tail (Stereum ostrea)

False Turkey Tail

Photo by Kirk Nelson

False Turkey Tail (Stereum ostrea) is an extremely common and widely distributed, wood decaying, bracket fungi. It is found on logs and stumps of dead hardwood trees, especially oaks. It appears as individual, overlapping, thin, semicircular or fan-shaped brackets. The upper surface is densely hairy and concentrically zoned dark reddish, orange, yellowish, brown, and buff. The under surface is smooth or slightly bumpy, with no layer of pores or tubes. Older caps are usually buff or gray above, gray or whitish below, and often greenish or blackish due to being partially covered with algae.

False Turkey Tail can be easily mistaken for the more common Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor). That species has brackets that often fuse into overlapping rosettes. The underside of the cap is covered with a layer of spore-bearing pores.

Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa)

Hen of the Woods

Photo by Cannon Valley Foraging

Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa) is one of the most easily recognized polypores of eastern North America. The numerous, overlapping, smoky-brown caps are reminiscent of a fluffed-up chicken, giving this mushroom its common name. It is found in deciduous woodlands, especially woodland edges, usually at the base of a dead or dying tree or stump. It appears in summer and fall as a large cluster of rosettes of numerous small, overlapping, fan-shaped caps rising from a single base. Tender young caps are edible after long, slow cooking.

Hen of the Woods is distinctive in appearance. A closely related species, Grifola umbellata, is similar in appearance but the caps are larger and lighter in color, and are attached near the center, not at or near the side. It is much less common.

Aspen Bolete (Leccinum insigne)

Aspen Bolete

Aspen Bolete (Leccinum insigne) was first described in North America in 1966. In the summer and early fall it is found on the ground, widely scattered or in groups, in woods and woodland edges under aspen and possibly also under birch. The species name means “distinctive or outstanding” but the mushroom was named for the Italian soccer player Lorenzo Insigne. Most sources state that it is safe to eat, but it has recently been thought to cause gastrointestinal distress in some individuals.

Scaber stalk mushrooms can be easily identified to the genus, less easily to the species. All have whitish or pale stalks covered by numerous short, rough, projecting scales (scabers) that turn dark at maturity. Many are similar in appearance and are often misidentified as Red-capped Scaber Stalk (Leccinum aurantiacum), even in printed guides and on popular mushroom Websites. However, recent DNA analysis suggests that Red-Capped Scaber Stalk is a European species that does not occur in North America.

Aspen bolete is distinguished by the dry, orange or orangish cap that turns bluish-gray or purplish-gray when bruised or cut; the stalk that tuns blue at the base when cut; and its habit of growing under aspens.

Late Oyster Mushroom (Panellus serotinus)

Late Oyster Mushroom

Late Oyster Mushroom (Panellus serotinus) is common, widespread, and aptly named. It appears in the late fall with the onset of cold weather. It is found singly or in overlapping groups on the trunk or a large branch of a dead and decaying tree. It usually occurs on a hardwood, especially black cherry, but occasionally also on a conifer.

There is often no stalk. When there is a stalk it is short, thick, and attached at the side. The cap is kidney-shaped or semi-circular. It is downy and often flushed with violet when young, becoming hairless and olive-green to yellowish-green as it ages, eventually turning yellowish-olive or light brown when mature. The edges are curled under at first but flatten out with age. The gills are yellowish or orangish but fade with age. It is edible but has a mediocre taste and becomes bitter as it ages.

Phomopsis gall on hickory (Phomopsis spp.)

Phomopsis gall on hickory

There are at least 232 species of the fungus Phomopsis. Several of these produce bark galls on bitternut hickory. The galls are identical in appearance making identification of the associated species in the field impossible.

Spores are produced throughout the growing season and are spread by wind and rain splashes. It is believed that spores infect a host by entering a wound of a young twig. The fungus then spreads to branches and to the trunk. The galls do not kill the host but reduce vigor and girdle small branches causing dieback. Uninfected trees may occur near heavily infected ones.

Galls may occur singly or in clusters on the trunk and branches. They are woody, rough, more or less round swellings. They appear as tight clusters of nodules. They can be very small to 10″ in diameter. If cut open they reveal disorganized woody tissue but no insect chambers or tunnels.

Peeling Puffball (Lycoperdon marginatum)

Peeling Puffball

Peeling Puffball (Lycoperdon marginatum) is a common and widespread, medium-sized puffball. It appears on the ground, individually, scattered, or in groups, usually in sandy soil. It is often found in the woods under deciduous or coniferous trees, but is also found in the open on roadsides and in waste places.

The skin is covered with short, erect spines that often aggregate in groups of 2 to 4 creating pyramid-shaped warts. As it ages, the outer, warty or spiny skin sloughs off in thick, irregular patches or chunks revealing the smooth, pale to dark brown inner skin below. When mature, a pore-like mouth develops at the top through which spores are released.

Peeling Puffball is distinguished by the outer skin that is covered with pyramidal warts and sloughs off in thick, irregular patches or chunks.