November 2013
Backyard Wilderness Blog
Mid-November heralds the end of the season for BackyardWilderness.com weekend plant walks. While most flowering plants have faded away or been killed by hard frosts, there are a few seed stalks still standing and surprisingly, a few hardy plants still dressed in green attire! Christmas Fern and Evergreen Woodfern, as well as some mosses and lycopods stand out against the brown tones of autumn leaves and dried pine needles on the forest floor. Along roadsides and in fields, certain plants like Bishop's Weed, Chervil, and a few others produce a second flush of foliage growth, as if in defiance of the coming winter. For the forager, there are a number of unique autumn mushrooms and fungi that appear in November... but be careful!
The cluster of pale yellow mushrooms to the right are most probably Hygrophorus gliocyclus, an edible mushroom that appears under pines and spruce in November in the northeastern U.S., but because it also resembles a number of other mushrooms that are not edible, great caution is warranted. Take no chances! Remember to utilize proper identification steps outlined in most reliable mushroom field guides or consult with a professional mycologist before eating any wild mushroom.
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Looking like a bunch of giant raisins on a branch, the fruiting bodies of Exidia fungus, (above,) also known as Troll's Butter, Black Witch's Butter and Black Jelly Roll, are almost appetizing! This is probably E. nigricans which is known to grow in the northeastern U.S., but looks more like E. glandulosa, a European species. However, the two appear much alike, and so many different fungi are expanding their territories worldwide in these days of intercontinental travel, that it could be either one. DNA testing is required to make a final determination. Some websites claim that both of these fungi are edible, but others state "edibility unknown." When in doubt, do not eat!
"I'm holding in my hand the second deadliest mushroom in the world, Galerina autumnalis." (See photo right.) Appearing at almost any time of year under the right conditions, usually, but not always growing on dying pine trees, this small brown mushroom is second only to Amanita virosa, the Destroying Angel in its toxicity! However, while the Destroying Angel is easily identified by its appearance, Galerina autumnalis appears similar to a number of other mushrooms and is sometimes mistaken for an edible species with horribly tragic results. Avoid this one at all costs!
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All photos on this page courtesy Karen Porter of Burlington Area Community Gardens. Thanks Karen!
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