Autumn Fungi In My Yard



 Following are some, but not all, of the fungi that appeared in my yard in the mid-September-mid-October 2013 period. Overall they represent several of the major groups of fungi that can be found in natural and semi-natural habitats where deciduous trees predominate.

Oyster mushrooms on a dead palm stem

Oyster mushrooms on a dead palm stem

Pleurotus– (probably P. ostreatus) a soft, shelving saprophyte often appears in clusters on the trunks of standing dead or dying trees. Not visible in the photographs are the whitish lamellae (gills) that occupy the underside of the cap. Looks good enough to eat and it is! This is the renowned oyster mushroom available at the grocers. In my yard, it has appeared on a moribund red maple branch high in the tree but the one photographed is growing out of a palm tree deprived of its single crown bud some months before.  The oyster mushroom is short-lived and a favorite of tiny maggots (beetle larvae). As if to compensate for its short duration, there have been four fruitings of this mushroom since late June from the same place on the palm stem. The oyster mushroom may be grey, brown or white, and darker in sunnier locations. The photographed specimen occurred under a large live oak.

Mature "fruiting" specimens of Coprinus.

Mature “fruiting” specimens of Coprinus.

Coprinus disseminatus(?)- is a small gilled species that forms colonies and is saprophytic on dead wood. Several dozen appeared simultaneously at the base of a dead tree. Most members of the genus Coprinus “deliquesce”- i.e., the tissues of the mushroom break-down into a black, gooey mass that contains the spores rather than releasing the spores   like other gill fungi. The fruiting bodies last only a few days before collapsing. Caps of this species are thin, grayish and striate and barely a centimeter in diameter.

Areolate pileus of Boletus fraternus.

Areolate pileus of Boletus fraternus.

Boletus fraternus– has a reddish to brick- colored cap with a dense layer of tubes on the underside rather than gills placing  this species in the Boletaceae, a large family of tube-bearing mushrooms. About a half-dozen of these boletes appeared in a leaf-covered lawn beneath a large live oak tree. In boletes, the walls of the tubes are lined with spore-producing cells. The spores are released from the tubes and escape via the pores that are visible on the underside of the cap. In this (and some other) species the mature cap features surface cracking (i.e., is areolate) and the stipe has reddish blotches. Cutting into the tube layer causes the tissues to darken.

Side view  of a sliced pileus of B. fraternus showing darkened tubes and reddish stipe

Side view of a sliced pileus of B. fraternus showing darkened tubes and reddish stipe

The boletes tend to be mycorrhizal, rather than saprophytic-that is their mycelia combine synergistically with tree roots, facilitating the efforts of the latter to obtain minerals and water. The fungus derives energy from the carbohydrates produced by photosynthesis in the tree leaves and that  to the roots.

Mature puffballs. Note one is cut open to reveal spore-laden interior.

Mature puffballs. Note the one second from the bottom is cut open to reveal  a spore-laden interior.

Lycoperdon –puffballs. Several groups appeared in bare soil in the shade of overhanging tree limbs. Puffballs belong to a group of fungi that produce their spores internally, i.e. within the mushroom rather than externally on gills or lining pores.  At maturity, an apical opening forms through which spores escape to the air. At this stage the interior of the puffball has becomes a mass of countless millions of  tiny spores but in the immature state the mushroom consists of a firm, white mass that can be sliced. Note the powdery texture of the mature puffball (among four of them) in the photograph above. The photograph below shows the rhizomorphs or root-like bundles of mycelial hyphae that attaches the puffball to the soil. These puffballs were discovered in a mature state which explains their dark color and the presence of ripe spore masses. For a little more on puffballs and related species see the separate entry, PUFFBALLS, under FUNGI on this site.

Puffballs removed from the soil and showing rhizomorphs

Puffballs removed from the soil and showing rhizomorphs

Stereum sp. These small saprophytes occur strictly on dead wood (photos below).  Stereum is a large genus of mushrooms in which the spore layer is directly exposed to the atmosphere. There are no gills, pores or other structures present to support spore development and discharge.

Immature resupinate caps of a Stereum species

Caps of a Stereum species. On the upper right of the photograph, some caps are still flattened (resupinate) against the bark.

Unlike many fleshy mushrooms, these crust or parchment fungi are leathery and long-lasting. The photo shows a group of Stereum fungi that developed on a dead red maple branch. The cap starts out flattened against the bark but folds upward to reveal a series of partially concentric rings on its upper side. On the tannish to white underside the spores are produced and dispersed predominantly by wind or rain.

Mature Stereum as seen from above.

Mature Stereum  individuals seen from above.

Poria corticola– as its generic name suggests, this is a pore-bearing species and as such, is representative of a large group of saprophytes that specialize in degrading dead wood. Many of these polypores occur as tough shelving or bracket fungi that may last for years.

These bright Stereum fungi are believed to be the same species as the previous; also on Acer rubrum.

These bright Stereum fungi are believed to be the same species as the previous; also on Acer rubrum.

A tan Poria fungus showing conspicuous pore development.

A tan Poria fungus showing conspicuous pore development.

Although a polypore, Poria is a crustose (resupinate) genus that forms whitish or tannish patches on dead branches, twigs or logs. Lacking a cap or stipe, Poria consists of a simple layer of pores that are barely visible to the naked eye.

Individual patches are relatively long-lived and those photographed in October had been around for a year or more. Poria occurs commonly on fallen oak branches but also on dead branches still attached to the tree.

New Poria growth can be seen overgrowing old fruiting bodies which have already released  spores.

Young and old Poria growth on a dead oak branch. At one location, new Poria growth can be seen overgrowing an old colony which has already released spores.

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