Mycology lecture - Placerita Canyon - March 2010

V decided she needed to take a "semi-spontaneous" day trip to see some CA nature. She, I and a few friends went to a talk about mushrooms by mycologist Florence Nishida at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center near Santa Clarita followed by a guided mushroom hunt.

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The website described it as

" 'If It's Weird, It Must be a Mushroom, aka Mushrooms 101'. This will be a basic introduction to fungi, covering what are fungi, what are their roles in the environment, their lifestyles (saprophytic, mycorrhizal, parasitic), what are mushrooms, some notable local resident mushrooms, including best edibles and serious poisoners."

We learned that and much more. Here are a few things I absorbed. Saprophytic fungi are the types that decompose things (like dead trees). Mycorrhizal are those that have a symbiotic relationship mainly with plants (they attach themselves to tree roots underground and help the tree to get water and nutrients). Parasitic fungi are the type that harm and/or kill living things (trees, etc.). We also learned how to tell the difference between the two genus Agaricus and Amanita. This is important information if you're planning on trying to eat a mushroom because one of the deadliest mushrooms is the Amanita
phalloides (AKA the Death Cap). Some of the characteristics to consider when identifying mushrooms are the gills, stem, where it is growing, the color of the spores, whether it has a veil and vulva or not (see below) and what color it turns when the flesh is damaged.

Also, I already knew this from a friend who is a budding mycologist, but mycelium is the actual organism, the mushrooms that we eat are just the fruit bodies, the way that the mycelium spreads its spores (which are sometimes housed under the cap in the gills and sometimes elsewhere). Picking a mushroom does not harm the mycelium. You just have to make sure to cover over the spot where you dug the mushroom out.

Once we left the classroom and headed out to the trail and then the oak tree grove we found so many different types of mushroom and Florence helped us identify each one. Here are some of them and the names as I remember them.

Not sure about the name of this one, but it has to be saprophytic because it's growing on a tree. She mentioned something about schizophrenia and it having schizo in the name.

Amanita Novinupta (which means Blushing Bride, because of the pink color)

This is maybe an Amanita phalloides (Death cap)? She wanted to use it as an example of how the fruit body (AKA mushroom) emerges from what's called the universal veil. You can see where the cap is still attached a bit on the left side.

Here is another Amanita phalloides (Death cap) that I found pushing it's way out of the soil and leaf litter.

Can't remember, but I think it's a Russula. We tasted it and it was peppery.

This is either Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tails) or something very similar.

Here is a false morel she called Elfin Saddle. I couldn't find the latin name for it.

Here is Omphalotus olearius (Jackolantern). Some people confuse it for a Chanterel.

I can't remember what this one is called in latin or by nickname. I remember it was yellow and has a viscous cap (kind of slimy).

In terms of edibility, Florence says she never eats Amanitas just in case it's a Death cap. Also, the genus does not tell you whether it is edible or not, there are poisonous ones in all genus. Really, you need to look at it under a microscope to be positive which type it is.

Before we left, I got a little birding in.

This is an American Pipit I think.

And this cute little thing is a Dark-eyed Junco.

Before we got back in the car, we saw this stream and someone said "Why don't we take off our shoes and walk around in it?" It was best feeling in the world! So cool and clean.

After leaving Placerita Canyon, we headed to Antelope Valley to see if the wildflowers were in bloom, but that's for another post. . .