Thu. Feb 29th, 2024
A virtual mushroom foray

Today’s post comes from Mark Read, our Discovery Leader at Murphys Point Provincial Park.

This blog will not be an identification guide; nor will it be filled with mind-blowing facts.

Instead, it is more of a celebration of the diversity of fungi found in Ontario.

I hope that along the way you are encouraged to take a closer look at these fascinating organisms that play such an important role in maintaining the ecological integrity of our parks.

chicken of the woods

To get us going, Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) is quite easy to find and recognize.

fungus

The vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows this one sports brighten up a campsite on even the cloudiest of days.

Each of the “shelves” can grow to the size of a small plate, and the set can have many more shelves than the one shown here. It is usually found on decaying deciduous tree trunks and can be seen throughout the season.

fluted bird nest

Despite being found in northern areas, from North America to Asia, this next one easily goes unnoticed, as it measures only 15 mm in height.

fungus

This is the Fluted Bird’s Nest (Striated Cyathus), so called because the spore-containing peridioles look like little bird eggs.

During rain, the “eggs” are propelled into the air and attach to vegetation. The spores are thought to be ingested by herbivores: their feces provide an excellent place to restart their life cycle.

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Hemlock Varnish Rack

Sometimes it is easier to find a target species by knowing and then taking a closer look at its host.

Although the Hemlock varnish rack (Ganoderma tsugae) can be found on a variety of decaying spruces and other conifers; Its name is apt because of its preference for eastern hemlock.

mushroom

This species first appears in late spring as a white patch that matures in mid-summer into the tough but shiny “stand” seen here.

This shiny and shiny surface is very distinctive. This genus of mushrooms is believed to have medicinal properties.

Amethyst Deceiver

mushroom

I had to include the next one because of its stunning purple-violet color. How often do you see this type of color in nature?

This one is aptly called the Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina), amethyst for its color and deceptive since the color fades quickly, making it difficult to identify.

It is usually found singly or in small groups, and is most commonly associated with the beech, although it is not as demanding as the previous species.

The Amethyst Deciever is most often seen in late summer.

Dryad Saddle

The Dryad’s SaddleScaly Cerioporus) is a species most commonly seen in the spring.

It is found in North America, Europe, Asia and even Australia, and can grow up to almost 50cm in diameter!

mushroom

It plays a particularly important role in the decomposition of dead and decaying hardwood trees (elm is a favorite), but is occasionally found on live maples as well.

It is another of the “group” mushrooms, but the pale brown cap with intricate patterns is quite distinctive.

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eyelash cups

Our final mushrooms are the Eyelash Cups (Scutellinia sp.).

These distinctive and colorful mushrooms are small, with a disc when mature (or a “cup” when younger) only 1 cm (often much less) in diameter. These cups are completely bordered by the long “hairs” that give the genus its common name.

fungus

(Honestly, I don’t know the purpose of “tabs”, but if you know, please let me know!)

If you want to find them, they are widespread and relatively common on damp to very damp, well-decomposed dead wood and other vegetation starting in June.

Go ahead and find some mushrooms!

All of these mushrooms were photographed in Murphys Point Provincial Park.

Remember: it is not easy to identify the thousands of species found here in Ontario, so be very careful when examining them, as some can be quite toxic. And of course, keep in mind that it’s illegal to harvest mushrooms in provincial parks, so leave them where they grow.

A better way to enjoy and share its spectacular colors and shapes is to take a photo home.

Adding photos of your finds to iNaturalist may provide identification, but at the very least, your additions will contribute to our growing knowledge of the province’s incredible biodiversity.

What mushrooms have you seen this year?