Armillaria

 

Armillaria (=Armillariella) just past the button stage

Armillaria (=Armillariella) just past the button stage.

Mature Armillaria colony

Mature Armillaria Colony

To the left is the immature fruiting body of Armillaria  (Armillariella ) tabescens, the root-rot fungus, a particularly aggressive parasite of living and dead deciduous trees. At this stage the mushroom  features elongated stalks and small button-like  caps. At  maturity the fruiting body is soft and fleshy, not made to last long. In fact, although only a few days old,  the mature colony often  shows cracks on the pileus and sometimes breakage especially along the perimeter. In the photograph immediately below, note also the whitish dusting  of the mushrooms by spores released from  other mushrooms. Overarching caps have released large quantities of spores that have fallen onto the shorter caps.

After  spore dispersal is accomplished, the mushroom  rapidly breaks down into a gooey black mass that is soon to be consumed by herbivores like snails, slugs, tiny insect larvae and bacteria. Actually herbivory is often underway before this break-down phase (see below).

The many spores, of course,  assure that  there’s lots more root-rot fungus available to colonize the roots of the red maple and other susceptible trees (most often oaks)  and produce next season’s mushrooms. This species and closely related ones in the genus are found in forested areas worldwide and are sometimes responsible for economically significant losses of timber because, unlike most fungi,  they often attack trees while they are still living.Often these fungi operate as typical saprotrophs, degrading dead wood. The presence of colonies some distance from  trees often occurs and usually signals the presence of buried wood.

Four photographs taken over a week of the same Armillaria colony:

Armillaria basidiocarp at base of declining red maple in immature stage.

Armillaria basidiocarp in immature stage at the base of  a declining red maple.

Mature stage of Armillaria.

Mature stage of Armillaria, 3 days later.

 

Post-mature Armillaria colony attacked by small flies whose larvae feed within the mushroom. A half-dozen adult flies are visible.

Post-mature Armillaria colony attacked by small flies whose larvae feed within the mushroom. A half-dozen adult flies are visible.

A few days later the colony is barely  recognizable as a host of consumers and decomposers have taken over,

A few days later the colony is barely recognizable as a host of consumers and decomposers have taken over, Younger mushrooms are in the foreground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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