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100 More Species: #3 Gymnopus


Gymnopus sp. possibly G. earleae

The vast majority of mushroom species have no common name. Of the more than ten thousand mushroom-producing fungi that science has named, fewer than one hundred have an agreed-upon common name. This one shares a common name with thousands of other species: Little Brown Mushroom, or LBM. Identifying LBMs is a task made possible only with patience, the proper literature, and some tools. A microscope is most helpful. I do not own a microscope.

Using the proper literature (David Arora's Mushroom's Demystified is a good start), and a spore print (I decapitated the mushroom and left the cap on a piece of paper overnight, which obtained the spore color: whitish) I was able to come to an identification: Collybia dryophila. There are at least three problems with this; first, there are no oak trees nearby (a requirement of this species), I live on the east coast (so far as science knows, this species is strictly west coast), and most importantly, Collybia doesn't really exist as a taxonomic category anymore. That is to say, due to molecular work and the rules of taxonomy, Collybia has come to mean only the first mushroom ever to have that name and its closest relatives, while dozens of former Collybias have new names.

Well, thank goodness for the Fungi Magazine group on facebook. Though I have been humiliated there for lack of diligence in the past, this time I showed the above set of photos (important to show the underside of the mushroom) and told of the spore color and gill arrangement (the gills were "free," not touching the stipe--what we call the stem). Noah Siegel, a mycologist I have seen lecture several times, once introduced as one of the best mushroom identifiers in the country, suggested I look into Gymnopus earleae. (To be fair, another FungiMag fan suggested another Gymnopus species as well.)

None of my field guides included that species, but that's not too surprising. Say there are 10,000 species of mushroom-producing fungi in North America. How many can you include in a field guide? Most guides have a few hundred. Basically, if a mushroom isn't REALLY interesting in some way that matters to humans: if it isn't delicious, if it hasn't killed anyone, if it isn't bright orange, if it doesn't look like a dog's penis, if it doesn't have some great marketing strategy, it won't make the field guide.

I honestly expected this mushroom to be easier to identify, mostly because of the time of year that it appeared. Most mushrooms in New England come out in late summer and autumn. There are very few spring mushrooms: so far this year I've seen the mica caps, the wine caps, and these LBMs. (I'm only counting cap-and-stem mushrooms.)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 10th, 2012 04:21 pm (UTC)
Just this morning I noticed a large number of mushrooms by the mystic river. Thought it seemed a bit unusual (but I don't know what kind they were...)
May. 10th, 2012 04:31 pm (UTC)
What did they look like? What kind of habitat were they in? (woodchips, dirt, wood?)
May. 10th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure they were in dirt. But I should try to remember to photograph them tomorrow morning. That would help! :)
May. 12th, 2012 02:34 pm (UTC)
A photo of the mushrooms in my neighborhood are now posted in my LJ. :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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