Journal archives for July 2023

July 10, 2023

Safe & Ethical Foraging

Alright y'all, I'm about to get on a soapbox, but it's July, which means it's the season when new foragers ask if literally every mushroom they see is edible.

I follow several different foraging groups, both on facebook and reddit, and a theme I see often is someone posting a picture of a plant/mushroom/fruit and immediately asking if they can eat it. They don't ask what it is, you're lucky if they provide good pictures to even properly ID it, and half the time the mushroom they're posting is half rotted - but they're asking if they can eat it.

I want to emphatically emphasize how this is the wrong attitude to have when it comes to foraging wild edibles. Personally, I won't eat anything that I personally can't ID, and if I'm posting a picture for a confirming ID, its simply to get other eyes on something and make sure I'm not being an idiot - You'll never, ever see me ask 'is this something I can eat?'

Today I saw someone post a picture of Ringless Honey Mushrooms (Desarmillaria caespitosa) and ask if it was a chicken mushroom, Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), and how to prepare it - now thankfully, they mistook one edible mushroom for a different edible mushroom, but the identification was so wildly off that it honestly made me worry for them. How soon before they find something like Jack-O-Lantern (Omphalatus illudens) thinking they have a Cantharellus? Or mistake Funeral Bell (Galerina marginata) for Velvet Foot (Flammulina velutipes)? Now, thankfully, they at least asked, but it still makes me worry, because there are many easily misidentified edible mushrooms that have toxic and deadly look alikes.

This goes for IDing things for others online as well; I personally believe we have the burden, as IDers, to remain humble and skeptical when we're putting names on things that people might be posting to get a confirming ID before they eat it. In my groups I've seen several recent posts of the Asian Beauty fungus (Radulomyces copelandii) that were posted just for ID and commenters confidentially responded that they were Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus.) The former is a toothed crust fungus and the latter is a choice edible, what happens if that initial poster tries to gather them and eat them based on that false ID? Its remarkably irresponsible.

Just as bad, I think, is people posting more fragile plants and then enthusiastically exclaiming the benefits of foraging them - I'm specifically thinking of overharvested edibles like Ramps, or delicate and easily disturbed ones like Ghost Pipe (Monotropa uniflora.) The former are very easy to overharvest in public spaces and I personally think foragers need to be very cautious about what they're taking. Meanwhile the latter is an easily disturbed and fairly rare mycoheterotrophic plant that keeps going viral because it turns blue when put into an alcohol tincture, but the medicinal benefits are questionable and its very easy to kill a patch if you harvest it. Yet I see people just enthusiastically telling people to harvest these without thought for sustainability.

I, thankfully, don't often see these behaviors on iNat, but it has still been on my mind, of late.

Posted on July 10, 2023 10:46 PM by lothlin lothlin | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 12, 2023

Mushroom identification & photography

Afternoon all, looks like I'm in a journaling mood this month.

There were two points I want to hit on that I keep noticing as I've been trying to actively ID more fungi (since, well, IDers for fungi are lacking in general.) Mostly talking about Higher Basidiomycete fungi here, since that's mostly what I'm familiar with. (Lichens are an entirely different interest group)

The first point is that a lot of times, very specific things are needed to get fungi properly down to species or even genus, and I see too many observations that simply do not have sufficient evidence or details to even get to a ballpark.

There are a few things that are almost always necessary; those things are pictures of the top of the cap, the fertile surface (pores, gills, teeth, whatever it has,) along with the stem and the gill attachment point (if it has those.) If you can take these pictures, take the pictures. Pick a mushroom, turn it over, use the zoom function on your phone (it works better than you think, and is often better than trying to get it to focus by putting the lens close to the mushroom.) They're fruiting bodies, picking one isn't going to hurt the mycelia. Here's one of my observations as an example (ignore the fact that its not research grade, its a mushroom in July, all the people who ID stuff are out looking for them!)

Now, I may be able to confidently ID this mushroom in the field, but if I only uploaded the first picture, of the caps, I doubt it'd ever get a confirming ID - the visual spores would help, but in general, its just the top of a brown mushroom, right?

But with the addition of the underside pics, you can see that it has dark brown gills, it has an annulus (veil remnant) on the stipe, the stipe has a fuzzy texture, etc. These are all diagnostic and can help you get to a better ID.

Further than all that though, there is more useful information you can provide.
What is it growing on? (Species of tree is useful but even knowing if its a deciduous or coniferous tree can help a lot. Or is it growing right out of the ground? On leaf litter?)

What trees were growing in the area?

Does it have an odor?

When you scratch it, does it bruise? What color does it bruise?

Are there multiple specimens from the same fruiting? take pictures of younger & adult specimens, from multiple angles, if possible.

What does it taste like, is it bitter, spicy, nutty? This is often a good diagnostic characteristic for Russulaceae and Boletaceae (you can safely nibble and spit any mushroom, though I wouldn't recommend doing this with a potentially poisonous species unless you know what you're doing - generally outside of the two mentioned families, its not that important)

Does it react with any chemicals - what happens if you drop ammonia on the cap? Potassium hydroxide? iron salts?

What color are the spores? bring one home with you, put the cap on some tin foil, and upload a picture of the spore print

Do you own a microscope? Upload a picture of the spores under a microscope

Obviously, not all of these are possible for the average person, but the more information you can provide, the better. There are some species that are impossible to get past genus with DNA or microscopy, and you have to be content with the fact that all mushrooms aren't going to be identifiable

Alright, now we're past that, and here's the second point -

If you've IDed something to species, and someone adds an agreeing genus (but not species?) that's okay - they may not be confident and getting it down to species themselves but think you may be right. A few times I've done this, agreed with the genus because its simply not a group I'm as familiar with (looking at you, Agrocybe & Pluteus) but without actively bumping it back to genus level, and have been questioned as to why I don't think its that species.

It's not that I don't think it's that species, it's that my experience and diagnostic knowledge isn't enough to say it is or isn't, one way or the other. I doubt even true experts can ID every species accurately with only a few pictures, everyone is going to have groups that they're better with, and that's okay. Understand that Fungi is a entire kingdom, as diverse as plants & animals, and beyond that the science is often outdated & fragmented.

I'm just trying to be honest and not agree to a species level ID if I'm not sure of it.

Posted on July 12, 2023 05:45 PM by lothlin lothlin | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 26, 2023

Apparantly I'm a Journaler now

This is gonna be short; Russula, like, most of the time, aren't going to be IDable off of just a few photos (EDIT: To species). Not only is the group a mess in need of some heavy revision, but its just really hard to id them without non-visual markers like taste, DNA, or microscopy.

The greenish/purple, green, and tan ones are at least... kind of possible to ID

but in regards to the red ones, I'm just going to refer to this lovely article by a much more experienced Mycologist than I - enjoy!

Posted on July 26, 2023 04:09 AM by lothlin lothlin | 2 comments | Leave a comment


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