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Yeah I was at Woodstock, age 19 in 1969, woefully ignorant but I made it. Didn't know anything then about 'shrooms (what we called the magic ones). And now? Don't know much about mushrooms, toadstools or fungi in general but I took a lot of pictures on a recent --- ah, trip.

The Daily Bucket is a place where we post and exchange our observations about what is happening in the natural world in our neighborhood. Birds, blooms, bugs & SHROOMS - each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
Mid-August, 43 years later

A visit with my grandson to his great-aunt (and her mom) in the mountains of southwest Virginia. Above Wytheville is Big Walker Mt while Saltville is below Clinch Mt - elevations 4000' and 3600'. Aunt Jackie likes to drive up the 2 mountains, something she did often with Uncle Dennis, and she knows I like to take photos, so here we go.

Mushrooms are easy to overlook but like everything else out there in the woods, once you start looking, there is a lot to see. Granma Flo got me going, picking out her favorites and asking me to photograph them. That lead to a quest and dozens more.

Some basics from Introduction to Mushrooms by West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

To many people, mushrooms are mysterious organisms that seem to appear sporadically without rhyme or reason and then disappear in a matter of days or hours.  They come in a vast array of colors and bewildering shapes, and they have no obvious means of reproduction.  Some are edible, some are poisonous, and others produce unworldly hallucinations when consumed.

In times past, the term “mushroom” was used to denote edible stalked mushrooms having gills, particularly those in the genus Agaricus.  The cultivated white button mushrooms and portobello mushrooms that are sold in supermarkets are typical examples.  

Similar species having an umbrella-like form and radiating plate-like “gills” beneath the cap were called toadstools and were considered to be inedible or poisonous.  More recently those who study these fascinating organisms have adopted a broader definition of mushrooms.  In addition to the familiar gilled mush-rooms, these include coral mushrooms, polypores, boletes, spine fungi, bracket fungi (also known as tree conks), puffballs, morels and others.  Together these larger fungi are referred to as macrofungi.

I tried to identify some of my finds but looking at guides and websites, it got bad, really complicated, since many change color or shape as they age. Plus there is a lot of variability within a species. Here's an extensive key to major groups altho I don't know enough yet to use it properly.

Much of the classification comes down to a microscope; eventually DNA testing will resolve lingering issues so family names and groupings could change.
Here's a picture key for wimps like me.

So I trimmed the diary down to 30 photos, about 2 dozen mushrooms, and organized them with my layman's attempt at ID. What I learned is be more observant as to stems, spores and roots; smell, breakability and inner liquid; and hosts, seasons and locations.

Gilled Mushrooms

Amanita - a large family.
Two pretty delicate white ones, may also be the Destroying Angel.

I sure won't eat one to find out.

Amanita sp.
The typical Fly Agaric, bright red with white flecks, is the mushroom of literature; the most common picture of a mushroom. Deadly or hallucinogenic? Mycologists say No Way, devotees say Feed Your Head! I know deer and squirrels like them.

Just coming up...

and fading away.

My guess for family based on funnel shape. The tops change a lot with age, like this one getting deeper, or the photo before getting flatter, so that makes ID tough.

These are around 2-3" across.

Russula - this mushroom family is common out in the woods.

This series of 3 reds shows the changing color and deterioration of mushrooms.

Unknown Gilled, probably Russula or maybe Amanita

This is the one Granma liked; she said it had a tree imprinted on it.

and another of her favorites...

Showing top cap and gills underneath - brown gills may put these in the Cortinarius family.

This white one is a big question mark but it was interesting. Only one I saw.

Lactarius or Milkcap
These two may be milkcaps. One test is to break it and look for milky liquid.
Lactating - get it?


Non-gilled Mushrooms

Jelly Fungus - not quite the wet jelly look but it may be this family.

This family likes to grow on deadwood. As kids, we'd find the big shelf style on tree trunks and write our names on the underside.

Again I'm guessing on family with this one that's dinner plate size.

Lycoperdon or Puffballs
Everyone should recognize a puffball but here are two I never saw before.

This was growing alongside the gravel road going up Big Mountain, maybe 4-6 inches.

This strange pair is called Puffball-in-aspic - there's a name that makes sense!

Ramaria or Coral mushroooms
I like these the best; the biggest was almost a foot high.

Thankfully it was not too smelly yet. There's a species in Florida that will make you vomit.

Once spores are released, decay starts and mushroom remains litter the forest.

These two look like they are melting.

This one may have been eaten, or it just crumbled apart after sporing.


Weird series

Two very small red mushrooms. The first is normal, the second one must have had trouble coming up thru ground and got distorted.

The desire to grow and reproduce is strong . . . !

And these two photos are a fungus that covered a 2' by 6' area.
Looked like a soaking-wet-and-rotting deerhide. We did not touch it.

Squawroot - not a mushroom, an actual plant without leaves but also parasitical like a fungus. It's way past the light brown of prime.

More Virginia mushroom pics - with names!  And I sure wish I had this guide with me.

Getting back to Woodstock and what folks always joke about ---- well, I remember
Psilocybin - the best psychedelic mushroom. I discovered these beauties after moving to Florida in 1975. The steamy rainy summer pastures of the Gulf Coast are ideal habitat. Once I had them come up in my garden after mixing in old cowplops. No pictures today but 'shroom info galore here.

That's all for now. I could do a whole 'nother series on flowers we enjoyed up in the Virginia mountains. Even summer has its beauties. Please jump in and add your favorite mushrooms pics, stories or trips - and as always, I am eager for corrections and insights.

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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