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Fall Fungus of the World 2011: the Netherlands

Our so-called summer was chilly and wet this year. But while everyone else was scowling at the gray celing which had installed itself over our country, I was furitively scanning the sides of the bike trails and the edges of parks. Rain makes the mushrooms grow, and they like nothing better than a wet summer.

A. bitorquis

Despite being the genus of the common grocery store mushroom, Agaricus is a difficult genus. Some are edible, others are not. They are distinguished by somewhat nebulous characteristics such as odor, staining (changing color when bruised), and whether the ring points up like a sheath or down like a skirt when the mushoom is mature. The ones in this picture might be A. bitorquis, but they might not. They were growing between the pavers in the bike parking lot at the hospital, though, which is a pretty typical habitat for bitorquis.

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A. xanthodermus

This one is very probably Agaricus xanthodermus, with a bright yellow staining reaction at the base of the stalk and an unpleasant smell. It was growing in the grass a few meters down the bike trail.

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Scleroderma

These things look like puffballs until you get them up close. They are obviously heavier than puffballs. A knife reveals their identity as Scleroderma, probably citrinum.

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orange coral

A bright orange coral fungus growing on old wood. Probably Calocera viscosa. Despite its resemblence to Ramaria, the two genera are unrelated.

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A. fulva

The genus Amanita contains the deadliest mushrooms in the world, as well as some of the best edibles. This is neither. A. fulva, the red-brown amanita, is not poisonous but is small (4-6 cm) and reportedly flavorless. But even this lowliest of Amanitas manages to look stately in a bit of sunlight.

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stinkhorn egg

In the forest near Hilversum, we found this egg-sized ball of slime sitting on the forest floor.

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stinkhorn egg with cord

We dug around the base looking for mycelia, and found it was attached by a single thick cord of mycelia - very strange!

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stinkhorn egg inside

Breaking it open revealed its identity: an immature stinkhorn, genus Phallaceae, named for the unmistakable appearence of the mature form. Believe it or not, this ball of snot is edible and considered a delicacy in China.

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slugged flower

Beauty of slime, part II: slug slime on a flower.

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rainbow

Rainbow over Utrecht.

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unknown buff fungus

These pretty fungi were about 10cm tall, growing in tremendous numbers on a bed of wood chips just outside of a park in De Bilt. I have no idea what they are.

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unknown buff fungus

Younger examples of the species.

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suillus

I was hoping to find boletes on this excursion, but the closest I found were some small Suillus.

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thin-stalked bolete

This weird boletus-type was small but tall (about 3cm x 10cm), on a wavy, fuzzy stalk. It appeared to be alone so I did not pick it, but I did peek under the cap to confirm that it had pores, which were white. My best guess is that it's a kind of Leccinum, a genus of boletus-types with scaly stalks.

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LWJs

More pretty unidentified small, pale mushrooms.

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Marasmius

Minute mushroom, probably of the genus Marasmius, based on its ruffled edge. That's an acorn in the back for size comparison.

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slime mold

One of my favorite forest creatures, a slime mold! Despite their resemblence to fungal mycelia, we now understand that slime molds are not fungi. They have been temporarily rehoused in Protista, a taxonomic holding pen for a number of single-celled organisms which don't fit nicely into the other categories. The slime mold cycle of life starts as a single, amoeba-like cell that hunts around the forest floor for bacteria and other, even tinier microscopic food. Eventually, many of these individual cells will group together into the mass that we see here. The group will move together and seek out a warmer, drier place than the usual habitat of the single cells. Then the colony will appear to dry up, forming fuzzy stalks like tiny cattails (a photo of a slime mold in this stage is here. The fuzz is made of spores, which are released into the air, land on the ground, and form into new amoeboids. The slime mold gives us one example of how an essentially single-celled organism can get some benefit from congregating with its fellows for part of its life cycle - one step in settling down into multicellular life.

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slime mold

Closer look.

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amanita

Another of the stately Amanitas, probably A. citrina. If so, then it contains only minute amounts of amatoxin, the active ingredient in its deadly cousin, A. phalloides.

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A. rubescens

Amanita rubescens, the blusher. This is one of the most recognizable Amanitas, as the flesh stains bright red when cut. It contains a toxin which is destroyed by cooking, however, in the Netherlands its interior tends to be occupied by bugs and bacteria long before the cap even opens. Yet another Amanita best kept off the table.

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L. scabrum

The Leccinum were out in force this year. There were 3 trees in this area that seemed to be sporting Leccinum. All keyed out to L. scabrum, the common birch bolete, but there seemed to be at least a couple of different types. Some were squat with a bulbous stem, others had a slender stalk. Some had pores attaching firmly to the stalk, some had a gap of a couple millimenters between the sponge of pores and the stalk. Most did not stain when cut, but some stained first orangy-pink and then indigo blue when cut (this is a characteristic of Leccinum versipelle, the orange birch bolete, but these were certainly not orange and didn't really look different from the non-staining examples). My Dutch book mentions that L. scabrum is probably a species complex, describing six or so species that all look the same. L. scabrum is a good edible - it tastes about like a B. edulis except that it turns dark gray when you cook it, so you have to prepare it in a way that it doesn't look like you're eating mashed newspaper. But it is great breaded and fried, or in sushi.

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Lactarius

Lactarius species, possibly deliciosus, although normally it would have a colored rather than white stalk. L. delciosus was named by a naturalist who apparently smelled it and assumed it would taste good, possibly mistaking it for L. sanguifluus, a highly-regarded edible mushroom from southern Europe. Arora reports that it has a grainy texture and a bitter aftertaste. Like many Lactarius, the Russians preserve it by packing it in salt and eat it in the barren Russian winter.

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snails

All the snails in the forest decided to hang out here.

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unknown orange mushroom

Small, orange, wood-loving, unidentified.

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fungus and skull

Nothing complements mushrooms quite like dead things. The mushrooms are probably one of many minute Coprinus which frequent the Netherlands, possibly C. disseminatus. This is probably a rabbit skull, given the pattern of one premolar (missing), four big molars, and one small molar in the back.

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Coprinus sp.

A huge Coprinus, probably C. atramentarius. This one was growing alone in the grass, a couple meters from the treeline, and stood about 15cm tall.

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purple mushroom with ivy

A small, purple mushroom (maybe a Laccaria?) with a bonsai ivy.

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wild Harlequin

Amsterdam, where wild Harlequin bunnies roam. Color mutants are not that rare here (I've seen several black rabbits and a few others of slightly odd shades), so I don't know if this Harlequin is a dumped pet or a natural mutant.

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A. muscaria

The always-photogenic Amanita muscaria.

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Wort the stoner

I suppose if you adopt street cats in Amsterdam, you should expect this sort of thing. He is about a teenager in cat years.

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