Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mushroom class - update

Internet issues and work have kept me from posting before now, but I thought I would share a few photos from the mushrooms class. Here is Jon, coffee in hand, going through some slides explaining the different families of mushrooms. As you can see he had packed the presentation with many of his photos so those who attended got some good ideas of what to look for when trying to make an accuarte identification.

There were also plenty of mushroom identification books available to peruse. So folks could see which books they might like to go out and get for their own collections. Jon even had a few I hadn't got to see before, like this Boletes of North America, which I think will be on my Christmas list next year.

We spent the morning with a brief presentation, though once you get Jon talking, nothing is too brief. Then after a quick lunch break, we hit the woods to see what we could turn up. Besides giving info on mushrooms, Jon was also glad to impart some knowledge about mushroom photography as well.

Despite the lack of rain until just a few days before, we did manage to turn up quite a few specimens. Even managed to find on big old hen, and I stress the old part. Unfortunately this one was already turning yellow in the pores and one smell would tell you that it was way past its prime and could not be sampled. Too bad because it was large enough everyone could have gotten a good taste. I am holding only about 1/5 of the original.

Most mushrooms that we found that were fresh were small or growing on wood. Will is looking at one such specimen here.

However, there were still a few monsters lurking about. This unidentified Tricholoma was the largest that was found. It was on the old side and showed many signs of age, but was still neat to look at. You don't see too many large Trichs in this area compared to say out in the Pacific Northwest or other regions of the country.

After the hunt we brought most of our finds back to the classroom and Jon set out to identifying what he could. For edibles, in addition to the inedible hen, we had examples of chicken of the woods (yellow-pored), a smooth chanterelle, some nice and fresh hericiums, a really old man of the woods, and some even older disfigured purple gilled lacarria.

Jon and I, though mainly Jon since he knows the non-edibles much more than I, did our best to ID everything that was brought in. Becasue many were small, including several LBMs (little brown mushrooms) there were several that we didn't get an exact ID on, but we could at least suggest what family they were in and even narrow them down to two or three potential suspects.

All in all, in only about an hour looking along about a half mile of trail, the group managed to turn up over 60 different species which wasn't too bad considering how things had slowed down in the woods in the preceeding weeks.

All in all I think everyone had a good time and hopefully learned a thing or two about mushrooms, their characteristics, and what to look for when trying to identify them.

There have already been requests for more mushroom programs, so Jon and I are exploring setting up some more forays in the future, including a few official ones with folks from nearby mycological club like the Missouri Mycological Society and the Kaw Valley Mycological Society. Jon has started a email distribution list so we can let those who attended know about these future events. If you were not able to attend the class but would be interested in knowing about these, just drop me a line and I'll make sure you are added to the list.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mushrooms 101: Fall Mushroom Class

That's right, if you have ever said you wanted to learn more about mushrooms, now might be your chance. Somehow, Jon and I talked the local staff at Rock Bridge State Park into allowing us to make an attempt to pass some of the fungal information in our brains on to any crazy person who manages to show up. So, come September 26, if you would like to hear Jon and I ramble on about mushrooms and our adventures, please feel free to register early and often. Seriously though,if you are interested, register now because space is limited. As in mushroom hunting the program is rain or shine, so if you plan to attend the afternoon hunt, please dress appropriately for the weather.

Here is all of the info:
Mushrooms in Mid-Missouri - Let's Have Some Fun with Fungi
Saturday, Sept. 26 from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
Program is free, but space is limited. Reservations are required. Call 449-7400.
Recommended ages: 12 to adult.
Program description: There are hundreds of different kinds of mushrooms growing right here in Mid-Missouri. Come together with others interested in this fascinating world of fungi for a day of learning and discovery. From 10 am to Noon take in a colorful presentation of photographs which will help you learn to identify some of the many different types of mushrooms, as well as edible and poisonous ones. At 1 p.m. we will host an optional short hike where you will find some mushrooms, then bring them back for identification and discussion.

Hope to see you there.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fall mushrooms are on their way

With night-time temps dipping down into the 50s over the weekend, the fall mushrooms are sure to be here soon. But before you start looking be sure to use extra caution with some of the more popular fall edibles.

Now I normally do not talk much about edible mushrooms that have deadly look-a-likes, but after several reports from many of you I decided I had better say something. The mushroom or more precisely mushrooms, since this is really a whole family of species is the honey mushroom. This is a rather popular mushroom, mainly because it can be found in large masses of clumps and grows quite well in many Missouri woods and lawns.

One of my favorite mushroom identification books is David Arora Mushrooms Demystified. Arora lists five basic characteristics to identify a honey. The mushrooms must:
  1. grow in a cluster
  2. have white spores
  3. grow on wood, or buried wood/roots
  4. have a ring, and
  5. have stringy white pith in the stalk
If any one of these characteristics is not met, then there is a chance that it is not a honey. Pay extra close attention to the second one. A spore print can make all the difference. In fact, I don't recommend even chancing it with honeys, do not eat them unless you spore print every one. Now, I know that sounds awfully tedious, but before you send me an email, let me explain why.

If you have ever come across a mess of honey mushrooms you could see how it would be easy to pick huge bagfuls very quickly. The clusters are usually big with 20-30 mushrooms easily, plus there are usually a lot of clusters around, sometimes even hundreds of them, meaning you could easily come across a field of thousands of mushrooms. In fact, I see this scene almost every fall.

The culprit that ruins the mix is aptly named the deadly galerina (Galerina marginata or older books call it Galerina autumnalis). The problem with this particular mushroom is that it has very similar chaaracteristics. For example, it often grows in clusters and is found on wood. It has a ring and can be the same color as honeys. It also grows in the same places that honeys tend to grow at the exact same time of the year. Granted you can find deadly galerina all year long (making them a ringer for anotehr edible mushroom in winter, the velvet foot, which is another story). As their original scientific name suggests, galerina autumnalis are very common at the same time of year that the honey emerges, in the fall. More importantly, this mushroom can be so toxic that all it may take is one single mushroom to kill someone.

All of these things add up to big trouble in my book. An unsuspecting mushroom collector might easily mistake a cluster or even a single mushroom and mix it in with the honeys they have collected. Once that is done, it is the fungal version of russian roullette as anyone who consumes the wrong mushroom(s) would most likely not realize it until major organ failure had begun to set in. The only real way to tell the two apart is to check the spores, which in the galerina's case should be rusty or brown. Sometimes you can tell just by looking at the gills, which are usually brown. However, I have found young deadly galerina that had perfectly white gills, so the only way to be sure is to take spore print.

Here are a few pictures of the two so you can see how easily they can be confused with each other if you only rely on looking.

Here is a small cluster of deadly galerina, taken by Steo from Ohio. Notice how white the gills appear. The ring on the galerina is very thin and will often fall off (as is the case here), so although these are not a close look-a-like to a true honey, I have included this photo because many might mistake them for the ringless honey mushroom which has been in abundance for the last few weeks.

Here is the honey mushroom that is most common to my parts of Missouri (photo by Jon Rapp). It doesn't look much like the galerina above and you may think that you can easily tell the two apart, but remember there is a lot of variety in the way these mushrooms appear. Compare this photo to the one below from Mushroom Expert.

This one looks pretty darn close to the ones above but it is of galerinas. I have actually seen both of these growing together on the same log and around the same tree. If you aren't extremely careful, it is easy to see how one mistake could be a person's last.

Here is a close up to show you the stringy white pith that is found on the stalk of true honey mushrooms. But before you decide to go by that, look very closely at the galerinas above. From the photo, they almost appear to have a similar pith though it is not so stringy. So, always let the spore print be the final judge. If it ain't white it's not right!!

I hope I have thoroughly discouraged everyone from seeking out this mushroom. The fact that Michael Kuo didn't include it on even the expert list of 100 Edible Mushrooms should tell you something. If you encounter it, do what I do and just let it be. More than likely, they are buggy and personally, I prefer many other mushrooms over honeys. It is best not to bother with this one until you are an expert and trust me, I am no expert.

However, I can't leave this entry on such a downer. So lets talk turkey. Well, ok not turkey but another fowlish freind, the hen of the woods. After several reports of hen finds north of Missouri, I decided to check some early hen trees last week, but I did not see a thing. Though if the rain keeps up, there should be a good batch of them again this year. Last year, you could hardly walk 1/4 mile without stumbling one if you were walking the oak hardwoods and I picked my first one the first week of September, so they are not too far away.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blue shrooms and other colors of summer

One of the most easily recognizable edibles out there is the lactarius indigo or blue milky. Usually they are rare and I only turn up five or six a year, but this summer in Mid-MO they seem to be more abundant than ever. While out hunting with Jon and Michael today, we came across a nice patch where they were growing in clusters of threes and fours. The blue gills and the blue juice they drip distinguish them from all of the other milkies. They also bruise green which makes them a very colorful mushroom in your basket.

I brought some home to eat and show the kids and my son proceeded to make me a very nice picture by breaking off small pieces of one and using it to smear on his creative images. A most ingeneous use for an indigo in my own very partial opinion.

We also found a good mess of chanterelles of all varieties, including a few fresh black trumpets. I really like it when I can find a nice variety of chants. Cooking them all together really adds a lot of color to a dish. Michael picked several nice chestnut boletes and a mess of fresh old man of woods. He seems to like those things even though I won't touch them. Says they cook up a nice jet black.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fairy rings and other things

Now I have seen fairy rings before, but I have never seen chanterelles growing that way until today. I was walking up a small draw between two hills and this is what I found just over the rise - an almost perfect circle of orange.

There were a few in the middle but the majority of them were growing around the edges in the classic mushroomy pattern. They were so pretty and my basket was already filled that I left them behind, well not all, I did pick a few giants like this one below. It was nearly 6 inches across.

Most of the chants I am picking are smooth chanterelles which I am finding in very large patches that I have been hunting for almost 7 years. Often times in between patches, I will find small groups of common yellow chanterelles, and I am seeing those again.

But what is new this year is that I am finding medium sized patches of chants that are very similar in stature and ridges to the yellows, except they are orange, more like the color of the smooth chants. And the patches I am finding them in are right next to the smooth patches I have hunted for years. Yet I have never seen these before. Someone suggested that they were the peach chanterelle, unfortunately the only way you can discern the peach from the yellow is by looking at the spores and I don't feel like dragging out a microscope quite yet. It's always good to have a little mystery.

Here are a couple photos of the potential peach chants. They are a little paler orange compared to the vibrant color of the smooth chants.

And here is a comparison shot so you can see the color difference compared to the common yellows.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sunshine and Chanterelles

The day started off a little stormy, but that only got me thinking about mushrooms even more and when the skies cleared and the sun started shining, I hit the woods. Glad I did, too, because they were up everywhere in large patches and nice and fresh with hardly any little varmints ruining the mix.

Found three different kinds of chants, well maybe only two. It is hard to tell. I found some small patches of the common yellow chant and large patches of the orange smooth chants (they were out in force). But in one area, I found a small patch of what looked liked smooth chants. They were smaller in stature and not as stocky and when I turned them over, they have well defined ridges just like the common yellow. I guess these were the same species c. cibarius but they were bright orange and nothing like the mustard yellow ones I normally find. I will have to research this a little more and see if there is a distinction or if this is just a color difference.

It is so easy to hunt chants as they their bright colors really make them stand out. Large patches become seas of orange amidst the green and browns of the forest floor. Just make sure that you are not picking the poisonous Jack-O-Lantern mushroom which can look an awful lot alike. They are bright orange as well, but have well defined gills and grow from wood not the ground. Check out Mushroom Expert for more information.

I find a lot of chants in areas between the hills where water drains off during rains. Often they are growing all along these gullies so if you find a patch follow where the water would go, both down and uphill and you're bound to find more.

If you do go chant hunting this weekend take a large basket because you are bound to do well. Mine is about 1 1/2 feet across by 2 feet long and today it got really, really heavy...but I didn't mind one bit.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Mushroom Movie

I noticed that a local theater, Ragtag, is showing a great mushroom hunting film this weekend. I have heard some good things about it and come on, it's not everyday that a documentary or movie about hunting mushrooms comes along, so you have to see them when you can. Here is the rundown from Ragtag's website.

Know Your Mushrooms

Know Your Mushrooms follows uber-myco visionaries Gary Lincoff and Larry Evans as they lead us on a hunt for the wild mushroom and the deeper cultural experiences attached to the mysterious fungi. Combining material filmed at the Telluride Mushroom Fest with animation and archival footage along with a neo-psychedelic soundtrack by the Flaming Lips, counterculture chronicler Ron Mann (Grass, Tales of the Rat Fink) explores how fungi might well guide humanity to a safer, saner place.
  • Director(s): Ron Mann
  • Year: 2008
  • Length: 74 min.


  • Friday, July 10: 4:45PM
  • Saturday, July 11: 4:30PM
  • Monday, July 13: 5:00PM
  • Tuesday, July 14: 5:00PM
For ticket and more information from Ragtag see their website.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Black Trumpets - Heralds of Summer

Work found me in Springfield yesterday morning and on the drive home I decided to take a short walk out at Ha Ha Tonka to see if I could scare up chanterelles of any kind.

There were a few common yellow, cinnabars, even some yellow footed. Picked about a pound of all these mixed colors. Then I hit the black trumpet patches, which were up in full force. I picked my share of these and in an hour I was on my way with enough to last me the rest of the week. The black trumpets I picked were Craterellus conrnucopioides. Check out for a full description.

They are also up around Columbia. Jon found a different type craterellus foetidus in Rock Bridge State Park this week. You can tell the difference becuase the standard black trumpet in the first photo had a smooth underside. C. foetidus on the other hand, has wrinkles like a common chanterelles, though they are much more shallow.

You can find a good description of them as well on MushroomExpert; however, at least in Mid-MO you can ignore Kuo's comment about C cornucopiodes not growing in tight clusters. Many I found yesterday were fields of clusters of at least 4-5 mushrooms, though usually, like Kuo says, they are found in two's and three's. When you find a patch stop, look, and step very carefully, more than likely they'll have you surrounded.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

June mushrooms and hunts

Sorry it has been so long since my last post. I have been too busy with life to focus much on mushrooms. But reports have been trickling in of first chickens and now chanterelles. Even had one report of black trumpets found down by the Lake.

Jon was out this week in Rock Bridge and came across some nice fresh chanterelle buttons, as you can see from the photo. So, I'll be out and about seeing what I can find.

For all of you who were interested in a hunt. I was thinking of having one out at Rock Bridge next weekend (probably on 6/20). For those of you who have said you were interested already, you will be getting an email shortly. Anyone else who is intersted, please email me and I will send you the details.

If you are wanting to learn more about how to identify edible mushrooms or just mushrooms in general, there are a couple of Mid-MO events that you may want to mark on your calendars and check out.

The first is a mushroom foray out at Ha Ha Tonka State Park on June 26 through June 28. It is sponsored by the Missouri Mycological Society. No cost to participate but they encourage you to join the club, which is well worth the $15 a year membership. I attended last year and not only did the group find and identify almost 200 varieties of fungus, but I came home with a fine share of chanterelles, black trumpets, and a few other mixed edible mushrooms as well. They are good folks and if you want to learn more about mushrooms and taste some incredible mushroom recipes (did I mention that many members have a guormet-like touch when it comes to camp cooking) you cannot beat this trip. For more information click here.

A little further down the road but closer to home, Jon and I will be hosting a mushroom class out at Rock Bridge State Park in the fall. The date is September 26 and will consist of a classroom session where we will talk about basic mushroom families and show some examples. Then after lunch (optional), we plan to go on a short hike and foray to see if we can turn up any good fall specimen. More information will soon be available here and on the Missouri State Parks website.

Summer mushrooms have started, so get back out there and please let me know if you find anything.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Few Parting Shots

Well with the season drawing to a close and an upcoming trip looming in a few days it has been all work and no play at least as far as morels are concerned. But I did manage to sneak in a few quick last minute walks through some off the beaten path places over the weekend. So here are a few parting shots for the morel season.

This doesn't mean they aren't out there, they just get harder to find as they get overtaken by weeks of hunters and spring undergrowth. Hit the northern slopes or just head north. The MO/Iowa border should be taking off this week after this last batch of a good soaking rain. So, by all means get out there and find them and feel free to share any photos. I always love seeing some great photos.

I have found enough for me this year and hunted for a little over four weeks which marks a better than average season. I did have to walk a lot and hit many more spots to get my fill compared to the especially bountiful last year.

And chanterelles are only a few weeks away if you know where and when to look. If anyone is interested in a summer hunt, I am planning one for sometime in June. Send me an email or leave a comment and I will be sure to include you when I send out the information.

And now for some last photos....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Half Free Morel - just as yummy but only half as much.

I have been meaning to devote a post to these guys for a long time but got too busy once the season started to kick in, so I thought I would work on it now as things start to slow down and I have been able to catch up on all the work around the house that I have been neglecting.

For those of you who also read the Missouri report board over at, you may remember Jason from Nixa, MO talking about finding some half-frees early in the season that did not look like the half-free commonly found around these parts. The common ones tend to look a little like black morels, in that the ridges usually darken and often turn black as they age and they have long stalks. These are more like a yellow morel in appearance and have short stubby ground hugging stalks.

These however, more closely resembled yellows. When Jason first posted pics, many, myself included thought they could be wrinkle capped verpas. A close look-a-like that is often mistaken for half-frees and morels but can cause gastrointestinal distress in many who try them.
However, as you can tell by these photos Jason sent me, they are clearly half-frees. They are clearly attached to the stem on the stalk and not at the cap. Also, the stalk is completely hollow and did not contain any cotton-like fibers as the stalks of verpas do. So, it leaves us with a puzzle.

I asked around on the Michigan Morel Board (a great morel hunters site that I highly recommend) and fellow hunter Steo from Ohio said that he had found something similar that they call "woodsy's" or "spikes" and that he had sent a sample to Michael Kuo's Morel Data Collection Project (MDCP) on

I had speculated that these were a different species in my conversations with Jason, unfortunately, due to lack of funding and time, Dr. Kuo has yet to get all of the samples he received submitted for DNA analysis and this is one. So we may never know for sure, but other DNA analysis of half-frees across the US identified only two half free varieties, one that occurs throughout the US and one that was only collected in Oregon. That led me to speculate that perhaps the differences were in growth stage. And in am email from Dr. Kuo to Steo, he says the same thing. "Your photo looks like a fairly normal half-free to me; when they're immature they often have short stems and pale caps like that." So I mentioned this to Jason, who assured me that they always stay the same and appear this way even when old in age.

I guess we have to chalk this one up to variable conditions and accept, at least for now that until the DNA results come in, some places just produce different looking mushrooms than others. All and all it is a good lesson on trying to identify different species of morels just by looking at them.

By the way, if you have never heard of the MDCP, I would highly recommend checking it out. Basically Dr. Kuo collected morel information and specimens from across the country and ran DNA testing to try and determine how many species of morels exist in North America. More information can be found at: You can find the specific record for Steo's submitted half free at:

Overall, I find half frees very curious. I don't see them too much in the areas I hunt. Actually it wasn't until last year that I found my first, so I know very little about them and always want to learn more. If you have found any half frees this year or in the past, please post a comment or email me with the details. I am wondering if they are found around any certain trees in particular. When I have found them it has always been by a really rotten tree that is to old to accurately identify. I hope someone out there can enlighten me further on these fascinating little guys.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Some Report Photos

One of my favorite things about this time of year is seeing all the report photos with happy hunters. Take the one sent in above from Elizabeth and her daughter Claire from St. Charles County. There is nothing better than the look on a child's face when they find their first mushroom.

Even adults get the look when they find their first of the year. Here is Jon's better half Nancy who went out hunting with us today. Found about 25 between us. Not many out there but the ones that are left are getting pretty big as you can see below. With the hot weather coming later this week, it may mark an early end for the season in the bottoms at least.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Scenes from the woods

I'm too busy cleaning, preparing and cooking mushrooms to do a long entry tonight, and since a picture is worth a thousand words, I figured I would let some photos from the past few days speak for themselves. The one thing that always amazes me about the morel is the variety of patterns and colors.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Time to get up close and personal

I was stuck at work today so no hunting, but here are a few photos from yesterday. One of the guys who went with me, Ryan, took some great shots with his macro lens getting some nice close ups for me. Here was a nice pair including the largest and heftiest that I found. The bigger one had obviously been up a while protecting his little buddy. It was just smaller than a racket ball.

I say it had been up a while judging by the deep pits and yellow color, which is just my theorizing. I am sure there are many out there, who I like to call the "poppers" who will disagree and say that this just popped up like that. That's a pretty big mushroom and I didn't see any displaced soil from the suspected "popping." But don't get me started with the poppers. All I can say is I have photographic proof of morels growing (more on the growth experiment tomorrow). This being the Show-me state, I am still waiting for the video showing a morel "popping."

For those of you who have yet to find a morel and need some training for the eye. Make the photo below you screen saver and get that image in your head. These times of year, its all I see when I close my eyes. Perhaps that is why I have been having trouble sleeping the last week or so. Lack of sleep also means that on most days I have found a good sack of morels when many hunters are just drinking there coffee.