Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Look into the darkness...

Species name: Mycena inclanata

Common name: clustered bonnet

Location: Ontario

I took this photo in my back yard as the sun was setting (and hence the black halo around where there flash could reach) without much thought about composition or depth of field. It’s a pretty “artsy” photo as far as photography of fungi goes, as a technical image would also show the gill arrangement under the cap and gill colour.

One of the reasons why I find this particular species so fascinating is because of its predictability. Where you have decaying underground roots or stumps of oak trees, you find this species of mushroom fruiting all spring/summer/fall (but usually in cooler and wetter months). For the amateur mycologist, it’s one of the most easily identified “backyard mushroom” species. It’s unfortunate that it’s not recommended eating this species since it is so common and so easily identified. I doubt it would kill you (or your beloved pet), but it certainly wouldn’t be tasty like a morel or a chanterelle.

As with a lot of Mycena mushrooms (and fungi in general, actually), this species displays a phenomenon known as autolysis. This is the self-digestion of tissues due to enzyme activity. In fungi, it was thought to believe that this was one of the mechanisms of spore dispersal: a mushroom would autolyse its tissues into a drippy, goopy mess and the spores would be transported away from the mushroom (likely after mixing with rain water and flowing over or through the soil). This long-standing assumption was only recently found to be untrue, as about 95% of spores are released into air currents before autolysis occurs.

The more you know!