Snakes!

 

Crotalus viridis 2

Crotalus viridis oreganus, the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

by Brady Raymond

Rattlesnake 

Yes, snakes.  “isn’t this a mushroom blog?” Yeah, it’s a mushroom blog but Deviating From The Norm can be a good thing once and awhile especially when you find yourself in drier regions with few mushrooms around.  Snakes have certainly been on my mind lately and I hope they will be on your mind too this spring.  I grew up in Michigan, (southern lower peninsula) and every summer I would catch snakes, almost exclusively Garter Snakes, but I did see a few Water Snakes, Racers, and Hog-Nosed Snakes.  Once I even found a small Milk Snake.  I was young but I remember being extremely excited, they are such beautiful snake and rare in at least my experience.  My dream snake, however, was always Rattlesnakes.  I had dreams of the South, more specifically the Southwest.  The desert seemed so exotic compared to my Midwestern home and that is where as a youngster, I imagined all the Rattlers were.

Ironically, there are Rattlesnakes in Michigan.  My Grandfather and other old-timers I knew would talk of the little buggers being under piles of hay around the farm and near to swamps, which is what Michigan mostly was a century ago.  The Rattlers found in Michigan are the Massasauga Rattlesnakes and I have only seen the shed skin of one brought to school by a classmate.  I imagine they were mostly wiped out by the farmers as more land was converted to agriculture and then to housing.  If there are any in Michigan now, they are most likely confined to the thickets, marshes and swamps where folks rarely venture.

I’ve spent some time down in the Southeast and Southwest too, yet I have never stumbled across a Rattlesnake, and trust me when I say I was looking for them.  I’ve turned over plenty of rocks and logs in my day (always turn them back the way you found them) but I was never lucky enough to spot one of these beauties, until now.

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Morel Count, I’m at two

Salixland Morel 2

My second Morel of the year.  At this rate I expect to find five or six total this season.

By Brady Raymond

Things were looking good at the end of winter, sufficient snowpack, and some late winter rain but then a dry spell.  Over here, east of the Cascades the last couple of weeks have been warm and dry.  Dry enough ironically to put a damper on my mushrooming mood. Today, however, the rains did come and it looks like they will extend into next week. I got myself a bit of a good omen and stumbled across another Morel only a few feet away from where I had found my first Morel of the year.  I snapped off a few shots then decided to snoop around a bit and see if I could spot a few more.

As I circled around some brush I saw a yellow laser streak in front of me across the damp ground. My mushrooming focus now tuned into snake vision, I reassessed my naturing priorities and the hunt for the serpent was on.  The snake, small, only a youngster really, caught cover under the corner of a large concrete chunk.  I thought I had lost it but with a little gentle prodding and the snake emerged from its shelter.  I captured it and after a few seconds of squirming and discharging a foul-smelling musk, it decided I wasn’t a threat and calmed down.  I was deep in shade and as if on cue, a gust of wind blew on the canopy of Willow above, allowing the evening rays of the Sun to penetrate down to the snake in my hand.  Lighting went from bad to good in an instant, I took advantage of the situation and snapped the photo below.  Look for an article about my adventures snaking to follow this story soon.

Garter Snake 5

Newborn Valley Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi.  Garter Snakes give “birth” to live young.

My second Morel of the year and an encounter with the beautiful Valley Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi left me giddy and with a touch of the fuzzies.  Then I remembered spotting some mushrooms the day before, just up the trail on the exposed roots of a wind-toppled Willow tree. I had to bushwhack my way through standing dead to reach the specimens, which from across the creek looked to be Coprinellus micaceus, and upon closer inspection that is the name I gave them.

It was kind of a difficult shot, which had me lying prone on a mat of sticks and twigs and below that was a black soupy muck.  If I applied too much pressure to a knee or elbow seepage of this muck into my clothing was inevitable.  The image isn’t a wall hanger but it is good enough as evidence that this species occurs both on my property and on Willow.  I haven’t identified anything down to species but so far I’ve spotted Agaricus, Pholiota, Psathyrella, Galerina, Xylaria, Morchella, and fairy rings in my lawn, evidence left presumably by Marasmius.

Coprinellus micaceus SL

Coprinellus micaceus, or at least that’s what I’m calling it.  DNA studies suggest however-blah, blah, blah.

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Holiday Mushrooms

By Paul Hill

At this time of year as I celebrate some of my favorite holidays my thoughts turn to mushrooms.  Yes, some of us think about mushrooms all year long.

One of  the most famous mushrooms in the world is a big mushroom with a red or orange cap and white warts.  I hardly need to describe any more features; even if they don’t know its name, most people recognize it. Continue reading

Southwestern New Mexico

NM Lichen 1

by Brady Raymond

I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that Morel season may be starting early for me this year, as I jetted across western skies on my way south to Silver City, New Mexico.  I had found a few articles online about mushrooming down yonder but I couldn’t find much on the topic.  All I really had to go on was the weather and as things go around here, things down there seemed just about perfect.  For those of you interested only in mushrooms, I’ll be up front, I didn’t find much.  However, it was a good exercise in getting my eyes tuned up for the season albeit maybe tuned a little sharp as I was looking for cacti.

Silver City is located in Grant County in Southwestern New Mexico, it rests at 5900 ft. and is home to around 10,000 people.  I’ve visited this region some fourteen years earlier on a road trip with a friend just out of high school and things still looked pretty much the same.  One thing that caught my attention on this trip was the incredible abundance of lichen, all sorts of the stuff coating rock and tree alike.  I’m no lichen expert so these couple of photos will have to suffice, but trust me when I say it was everywhere, adding little splashes of color to the browns and grays that dominate the landscape.

NM Lichen 2

Lichen, lichen everywhere.

NM Emory Pass 8200ft.

Emory Pass 8200 ft.

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Color In The Dark Of Winter

Waxcaps In Seattle City Parks

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Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens

by Paul A. Hill

In the dark days of winter, I’m still thinking of mushrooms, but sometimes they are hard to find.  Luckily in January, I often start seeing Waxcaps in my local wooded city parks. I believe there are at least three species I have spotted over the years in Seward Park on Lake Washington in SE Seattle.  All of the following photos were taken in 2017.  A note on usage, Waxy Caps or Waxcaps are both names used for several related genera in Hygrophoraceae family.  Above is a picture of the common red Hygrocybe with lots of yellow, but little, if any white.  I identify it as H. aurantiosplendens, generally because of the colors and size.

The following photo is of a ragged H. aurantiosplendens showing the orange-red gills.  In January, I often come across these orange-red Hygrocybe which have become tattered.  It appears the mice and slugs in the park nibble on them through the winter.  Since these Hygrocybe seem to be the first ones up in January and there are not very many of them, they seem to suffer more nibbles then those which come up in larger numbers later in the winter.

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Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens, this specimen has seen better days.

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Still Going…

IC Hericium abietis

Hericium abietis, Mmm, good.

by Brady Raymond

Fall 2017, is this a mushroom season anyone is going to really remember?  There are mushrooms to be found and an acceptable diversity, but any real quantity seems to be lacking.  Although, quantity is really only important if you are collecting for the pot either for consumption or dyeing.  2017 is probably not the year you would want to start a study on Russulas or Chanterelles.  I have only seen a handful of Russulas this year and most were what other folks had collected.  As far as Chanterelles are concerned the most I’ve seen in one place was the grocery store and they were selling for $17.98 at one point.  I have only found a few handfuls of them myself this year, enough though for Erin to make a few dishes, but none to share.

So, the big question, “Is the season over?”  Well, as evident from the above photo, no it is not.  There are still mushrooms to be found and as long as the weather stays mild as it has been for the last week or so we may be able to milk this season for a while.  I think it’s safe to say that over about 3,000ft. in our area, your chances of finding much of anything are probably limited.  The photo below was taken around 2000ft. and the snow line was not far above that.

IC mt.

The snow line was not far above our elevation of 2000ft.

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NAMA Photo Contest Winners

The North American Mycological Association recently announced the winners of the 2016 photo contest.  PSMS Vice President, Daniel Winkler, was awarded first and second place in the Pictorial category!

boletus-reticuloceps-lunang-cr-ms

First place: Boletus reticuloceps

myxo-glass-stipe-dw-ms

Second place: Ceratiomyxa sphaerosperma

Congratulations Daniel!  You can see the rest of the winners here.

 

‘Tis The Season

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Erin’s first morel of the year.

by Brady Raymond

They’re Here! I’m happy to report, as some of you probably already know the 2016 Morel season is on. The wife and I headed out April 17th on Highway 2 with the hopes of finding morels. We knew we were taking a chance, heading over Stevens Pass and hanging around 2100ft. in elevation. The temperature seemed right, and we had loads of snow this winter, which means moisture levels had to be at least better than last year, our moral for morels was indeed high. Continue reading

Learning to identify candy caps

Our mushroom of the month this April is the candy cap! Danny Miller has already written an extensive post full of interesting facts and useful info for identifying. Here, I just wanted to share a couple of images that should make identifying a lot easier. As Danny mentioned, there are a lot of candy cap look-alikes in the PNW, and it can be hard to tell them apart at first. You can always take them home and dry them to confirm a positive ID, but that can be time consuming, and you might end up with a bag full of duds.

One macroscopic characteristic you really want to pay attention to is the latex, the liquid substance that oozes from any lactarius when it is broken. Candy caps have a murky clear latex, kind of like saliva or another bodily fluid. The most common look-alikes, in contrast, have a much whiter, more opaque latex. Take a look:

(These photos came from PSMS member Josh Powell (left) and Tim Sage via mushroom observer (right))

As you start to find candy caps with any regularity, you’ll get really good at identifying the real thing, even without the latex. Some of us (including me!) can actually distinguish their smell when they’re fresh!

Finally, I’d like to leave you with one last tip: dry your candy caps SLOWLY. For most mushrooms, it doesn’t matter a whole lot how quickly you dry them, or the temperature you use, but I’ve found that candy caps that are dried too quickly don’t develop as strong a smell, and often have a much stronger mushroom-y flavor instead.

Happy hunting! (or rather — happy future hunting. we still have several months before the season starts!)