There is a small area of a big forest I visited today, where chanterelles really love to grow. It’s just off a trail, down in a little hollow. If you aren’t looking for them, you might well miss the mushrooms growing on this spot. When I’m there, I watch from the trail for the tell-tale hint of bright yellow. If I see yellow, I move slowly into the area and look closely, because the mushrooms are often partially obscured by the forest duff.
In the forests I visit, I mostly find smallish chanterelles – one over two inches tall or with a cap over two inches wide is uncommon. Yet today I found a cluster of chanterelles, all in one hollow, that were much bigger than the norm.
The mushroom below is more the size chanterelle I’m used to finding – the one above is a monster.
I took the dogs for a walk in the woods this morning, looking for some tasty mushrooms for dinner. First let me say, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER eat any wild mushrooms unless you can identify them as edible beyond a shadow of a doubt. There are plenty of mushrooms in the forest that can kill you or make you very sick.
This morning I picked Hypomyces lactifluorum (lobster mushrooms), chanterelles, hedgehog mushrooms (Hydnum umbilicatum) and one ornate bolete.
Tuffy P was out at a gathering today on a property that has a forest. Now Tuffy rarely goes out mushroom foraging, but she has an eagle eye and if there is something interesting to see in the woods, she’ll find it. Last season, for instance, we went for a walk in a suburban forest and Tuffy P spotted a nice clump of Bear’s Head Tooth growing on a beech tree. Today she found something very interesting and took a photo to show me.
Dead Man’s Fingers?
She saw these unusual growths coming from the base of a stump. My first guess is that these strange little items are the fungi known as Dead Man’s Fingers – Xylaria polymorpha
Dead Man’s Fingers are a saprobic fungus, meaning they get their nourishment from non-living organic matter – in this case from a dead or dying tree. Although I spend plenty of time wandering about forests looking for mushrooms, I’ve never come across dead man’s fingers in the woods. I did see some samples once though, collected by someone else during an outing with a mushroom class.
I was out in a forest today too. While Tuffy P was up in the Kawarthas, I took the dogs to a woods not too far outside the city for a little scouting mission. This forest fruits edible boletes, as well as lobster mushrooms and a few chanterelles. I thought with all the rain we’ve had there was an outside chance of finding some early lobster mushrooms or some early summer boletes. All I found though, was one bolete that was sadly way way past its expiry date. Hypothetically, we should expect to see some interesting edibles in our forests over the next few weeks. I say hypothetically, because everyone knows there are no edible mushrooms in Southern Ontario.
This video is a work of fiction. Videos can be doctored. There are NO edible mushrooms in Southern Ontario.
Gentle readers, I confess I may have exaggerated a wee bit when I declared that there were no edible mushrooms outside of grocery stores in Southern Ontario.
While out for a stroll in a small woods with Tuffy P this afternoon, we kept our eyes open for the possibility of a mushroom or two after all the rain we recently enjoyed. It was Tuffy who spotted the Bear’s Head Tooth. I think there were three of them in the same area, all growing from beech trees, not far from the ground. The one in the picture was nice and fresh, and we harvested it for the table.
These are really unusual-looking fungi and very distinctive. Although I have been foraging for a few years, and have gone out of my way to look for Bear’s Head Tooth on a few occasions, this was the first time I found and collected any in the woods. I’m looking forward to dinner tomorrow.
As always when I write about collecting mushrooms I must caution you to be very careful eating any wild mushroom. If you are not completely certain of the ID, leave it be. There are mushrooms in Ontario woods that will kill you if you ingest them. Admittedly, the Bear’s Head Tooth is very distinctive but still… Be careful please.
The Weather Network has predicted normal summer temperatures this year, but in the Toronto area, higher than normal precipitation. This is good news for the amateur mycologists in the crowd. Last season started off well enough with plenty of morels and plenty of oysters but then a very dry July made it a poor year for chanterelles. Things picked up some later in August and into September. I found my share of hedgehogs, some good puffballs and some milk caps and as usual, plenty of lobster mushrooms.
I missed those chanterelles last year though. I’d love to see a warm wet July this year to get the chanterelles and the summer boletes off to a good start. Just sayin’.
It’s true according to this NPR article. Thanks Fitz for passing this on.
Some mushrooms are easy to identify without a lot of work. Sometimes, it’s not so easy. Mushrooms don’t always cooperate and look just the way the picture in the field guide does , and if truth were known, there are mistakes in even the best field guides, a scary prospect. One tool to help ID mushrooms is taking spore prints. Mushrooms have spores and a particular variety will always have the same colour spore print each time you find them. In combination with other characteristics, the spore print can be very helpful. I do mine on these handy log sheets which I’ve printed on card stock.
To take a spore print, cut the stem, or stipe, close to the cap, then set the cap, lower side down, on the surface you are using to capture the print. My handy-dandy log sheets have a black and white striped surface. This is because sometimes spore prints are white, and if so, you can’t see them on white paper. Cover your specimens with a bowl of some sort and leave them overnight. They will leave you a spore print of a particular colour.
Occasionally, it’s difficult to get a spore print, especially with younger specimens, but most times, it’s no big deal. Some field guides, like Barron’s Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada, are organized largely by spore print colour, which can be very handy.