Palomar Mountain Fungus (Addendum-1)
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Noteworthy Plants February 1998 Addendum #1

Fungi From Palomar Mountain 2

Additional Fungus Photos:

A Delicious Morel
An Elfin Cup Fungus
A Clump Of Armillaria
More Palomar Mt. Fungi

A black morel (Morchella elata), one of the edible and delectable members of the
class Ascomycetes. This species is eagerly sought after by mushroom collectors.

Helvellaceae: Elfin Cups (Helvella acetabulum) & (H. lacunosa)

Brown-ribbed Elfin Cup (Helvella acetabulum). An interesting fungus in the class Ascomycetes that looks like a cross between a cup fungus and an elfin saddle. The prominent ribs extending up the underside of the cup help to distinguish this species from other species of Helvella.

Helvella lacunosa photographed at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

Helvellaceae: False Morel or Brain Fungus (Gyromitra)

Gyromitra esculenta photographed by Stephanie Mifflin in Japan. This is a danerously poisonous fungus. Despite its specific epithet "esculenta" meaning "delicious," this fungus should not be considered edible. The active toxic compound is gyromitrin (N-methyl-N-formylhydrazine), which is metabolized in the body to monomethylhydrazine, a component of rocket fuel! Even vapors inhaled from a boiling pot of this fungus can cause serious poisoning.

Photos Of The Amazing Honey Mushroom
In The Armillaria mellea Group:

Armillaria mellea includes a variable complex of mushrooms that are often found growing in massive clusters at the base of trees in the forest. This species complex is currently being subdivided into separate species based upon microscopic, macroscopic and distributional characteristics. In some references this species is listed as Armillariella mellea. They typically grow as harmless saprophytes on dead wood, but they may also be a virulent parasite on timber and orchard trees. The mycelium may extend through forest soil for hundreds of meters (perhaps even kilometers).

Armillaria mellea on Palomar Mountain in November, 2005

There is so much variation in the color and size of cap that different populations of Armillaria resemble different species. The Palomar Mountain populations generally have the following characteristics if you examine them when the fruiting bodies first appear. Otherwise some of these traits are evanescent (soon withering away and vanishing):

  • 1. Young caps spherical with lower margin attached to the stalk by a partial (inner) veil of threadlike hyphae.

  • 2. Partial veil on the underside of cap soon breaks away from the cap, leaving a ring (annulus) around the stalk.

  • 3. Gills adnate to the stalk or decurrent (extending down the stalk).

  • 4. Often growing in dense, massive clusters on wood (typically dead wood).

  • 5. Stalks within clusters definitely caespitose and connected at base.

  • 6. Scattered but conspicuous dark hairs on young caps.

  • 7. Mature caps covered with powder of white spores from upper caps.

  • 8. A tough, fibrous stalk, not brittle as in piece of weak chalk.

Fungal spores germinate and grow into slender tubular threads called hyphae which may be septate or nonseptate (i.e. without cross-walls) depending on the species. A mass of intertwined hyphae is collectively referred to as a mycelium. The body of fungi and lichens, which is composed of mycelia, is called a thallus. Under optimal conditions the hyphae often grow very rapidly, and it has been estimated that if all the hyphae produced in a day by a single soil fungus were laid end to end, they could extend for nearly a mile. Many species of soil fungi have their hyphae intimately attached to the roots of forest trees in a symbiotic association called mycorrhizae ("fungus- roots"). In mutualistic mycorrhizal associations, the roots furnish the fungus with sugars and amino acids, while the fungus facilitates in the absorption of water and mineral nutrients by the tree.

The mycelium of some forest fungi can extend enormous distances. A single individual of Armillaria bulbosa has been discovered that permeates more than 30 acres of forest soil in northern Michigan and may be one of the world's largest living organisms. Some scientists speculate that it was spawned by a single spore thousands of years ago. Another Armillaria in Washington was recently found to consist of a subterranean mycelial network with erect, above-ground mushrooms covering more than a thousand acres of forest soil. These fungal monstrosities are rivaled in total size and mass by a 106 acre, 6,000 ton stand of genetically identical quaking aspen in the Rocky Mountains. The aspen clone is connected by a common root system, and has literally climbed over mountains and across meadows. Any discussion of massive clonal colonies should also include the conjoined polyps of coral reefs. However, the question still remains: Do these clonal colonies qualify as a single individual, as in the 1200 ton General Sherman tree of California's Sequoia National Park?

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