Deer Mushroom

Pluteus cervinus (Plutaceae), the deer mushroom, is a common saprobic species with lamellae that are free (i.e. the gills are not attached to the stipe as in some species) and which are initially white but often fade to pinkish.  The spores are rose to brown in color.  The deer mushroom is distributed through much of North America and grows on a variety of organic material.  The texture of the pileus is quite soft, almost mushy; and although the fruiting bodies are fairly large, they are short-lived, lasting less than a week. 

A young deer mushroom that appeared overnight.

A young deer mushroom that appeared overnight, diameter about 4 cm.

The mushrooms photographed grew in my yard on the ground-up roots of trees that were removed–one that was already long dead (red maple), the other a live but non-native tree, the camphor (Cinnamomom camphora).  Unexpectedly, most of the approximately two dozen deer mushrooms that appeared over a two-month period in winter and early spring (2014-2015) were associated with the latter tree.  No other mushroom appeared over that period.  Since it had been only a few months since the tree was cut, the mushrooms either developed from mycelia investing young, still fibrous wood, or else developed from mycelia growing on other, buried organic material.  The mushrooms started out with a brownish cap that faded rather quickly to light tan or sordid (“dirty”) white.  Diameters of the mature mushrooms ranged from 6-13 cm.

Deer mushrooms as they appeared a day or so after the previously photographed stage.

Deer mushrooms as they appeared a day or so after the previously photographed stage.

After another day or so the caps become nearly flat as they mature

After another day or so the caps become nearly flat as they mature.

A mature fruiting body (or basidiocarp) that has turned nearly white.

A mature fruiting body (or basidiocarp) of the deer mushroom that has turned nearly white with age. At this stage, at least some spores have been released.

The pinkish lamellae (gills) are ripe with spores  and free of the stipe.

The pinkish lamellae (gills) are ripe with spores (not visible)  and free of the stipe.

The ripe pileus (left) is turned over to show the gills but if left overnight with the gills facing down, the countless spores are deposited in a striking pattern.

The ripe pileus (left) is turned over to show the gills but if left overnight with the gills facing down, the countless spores are deposited in a striking pattern (right).

A post-mature deer mushroom already being colonized by at least two species of fungal saprotrophs.

A post-mature deer mushroom already being colonized by at least two species of fungal saprotrophs, the last stage in the mushroom’s brief appearance above ground.

 

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