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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.
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’.
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.
I found a group of mushrooms this morning in a spruce forest that were growing in a large fairy ring. You can see part of the arc of the ring in the lower photo above. I thought perhaps it was a ring of Lepista irina, a tasty edible that fruits in fairy rings in woods. However, the gill attachment isn’t the same as photos of L. irina in my field guide, and also, at the best of times, I have no confidence in my ability to identify this mushroom with certainty. So…whatever that ring of mushrooms is, it’s still there in the woods for the next mushroom hound to figure out. I think in this game it’s good to know your limitations.
It seems more like October than September to me. As I look out the window, the sky is a dirty yellow, telling me the rain is not done yet. On the good news front, maybe that will trigger a fruiting of tasty edible wild mushrooms.
For me the mushroom season will be over soon. Sure there are honey mushrooms and aborted entoloma but that doesn’t get me very excited. As the leaves fall, it gets harder to find mushrooms on the ground. And when hunting season is underway, I don’t want to be in the woods with a dog who bears more than a passing resemblance to a bear. Of course I might change my tune if I find a good spot for kings or a couple good hens of the woods, and I reserve the right to do that. Yet, as the season progresses, more and more mushroom hunters can be seen in the woods.
This season, I spent far more time in the woods than on the stream. I did enjoy a few days of fly fishing on the Delaware this year, but I ignored my old haunts on local trout streams in favour of wandering the woods with my dogs, chasing mushrooms. Could it be true that some mushrooms see you coming and pop back underground? Or does it just sometimes seem that way.
I can’t complain about the mushroom season, even if our hot July made it a poor year for chanterelles. Salvelinas and I found plenty of morels. And, there were lots of lobsters, and milk caps and puffballs and a smattering of boletes. Now if I can end the season stumbling upon a nice fruiting of kings, I’ll be ready for the winter.
I headed out for the enchanted mushroom forest this morning, along with my buddies Memphis and Ellie Mae. I didn’t find a lot of mushrooms today though.
This is a meager sample of Hypsizygus ulmarius, the so-called Elm Oyster. I say so-called because in Ontario, I’ve only found them on maple trees. I expected to find some better samples for dinner, but nope, this was it.
These are Lycoperdon pyriforme, the Pear-shaped puffball, known in some circles as the “wolf-fart” puffball. These are edibles. The ones in this photo are in various stages of maturity. I should have taken more photos, including close-ups. You can see though, that some of them are a dun colour. These are already in full maturity. If you plan to eat these, pick only the immature ones that are all white. Everywhere you read about the little puffballs, you’ll find a warning to cut them in half to be sure they are in fact puffballs and not immature poisonous amanitas. Never mind that you won’t find amanitas growing on a dead tree – I always take that precaution because the cost of eating deadly amanitas is way too high. In another area of the forest, I found number of samples of another variety of small puffball, known as the gem-studded puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum.
In just one spot near the trail, I came across a bunch of Aborted Entoloma at the base of a stump. These are edibles, and I can say that they’re pretty good. However, they are just so strange, I don’t find them all that appetizing. I expected to also find loads of honey mushrooms nearby, but only found a few.
We enjoyed a great hike on some excellent trails through a forest that has a great deal of variety. And as a bonus for the dogs, we hiked to a big pool in the river where they had a lengthy swim.