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Archive for the ‘Fungi Kingdom’ Category

It’s getting a bit cold here in Sweden and there are few flowers left blooming in the wild. Berries and acorns adorn every tree and bush and mushrooms are popping up everywhere. Swedes seem to have a special place in their hearts for mushrooms and mushroom hunting and it isn’t uncommon for people to pick their own mushrooms here. I was always told not to eat any mushrooms I found in the wild, but apparently if you are well-practiced in their identification, it is possible to avoid poisoning yourself.

One mushroom that really sticks out and is most definitely poisonous is the Fly Agaric or in Swedish Röd Flugsvamp (meaning ‘red fly mushroom’).

Röd Flugsvamp or Fly Agaric

Röd Flugsvamp or Fly Agaric

It gets its name because it was once used in powder form, sprinkled in milk to kill flies. This mushroom starts off by looking like a white egg, and slowly grows into what you see pictured above, which is an example of a mature fly agaric (with a flat hat and white spots).

Flugsvampar, or ‘fly mushrooms’ (the agaric genus Amanita), characteristically have free gills (located under the hat), which in Swedish are called ‘skivor’ (literally meaning ‘slices’ or ‘disks’). As an immature fruiting body, it looks like a white puff ball. Once mature, they have white spots on the cap (or ‘hatt’ = hat) and a ring round the stalk (or in Swedish ‘fot’=foot) of the mushroom. There is also a kind of sock at the base of the stalk (in Swedish ‘strumpa’ = stocking) which in English is called the volva. Sometimes the white spots wash off in rain, so don’t use that as the only identifier. Not all flugsvampar are poisonous, but most of those in my Swedish mushroom book (9 total) are listed as poisonous, very poisonous or at least inedible. Fly agaric also has hallucinogenic properties if ingested.

There are so many different kinds of mushrooms, and now that I am learning about them I am seeing them everywhere! This seems to be a much more complicated thing to identify than flowers since mushrooms can look very different depending on age and may vary greatly in color. I am starting with at least learning the parts of the mushroom and I hope to explore more new fungi soon. For now, the red fly mushroom is a good start. It is the easiest to identify with its recognizable features and is quite thrilling to come across it, bright and cartoon-like, in the forest!

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The woods in August and early September seemed to be full of mushrooms!  I don’t have much experience with identifying members of the fungi kingdom, but this one stood out to me.  I saw this fungus in August in the woods on the outskirts of Stockholm. Fomes fomentarius is called ‘tinder fungus’ or ‘hoof fungus’ in English. In Swedish, it is called ‘fnöskticka’ (‘fnösk’ = tinder, ‘ticka’ = fungus).  This fungus looks like a horse’s hoof. It can be used as tinder for a fire and was found with the 5,000-year-old Ötzi the Iceman.  This is a dark brown or black fungus, and it is lighter at lower latitudes and altitudes.

Tinder Fungus (Fnöskticka), August, Stockholm, Sweden

The tinder fungus is found in North America, Africa and Europe. It can be found on living trees with damaged bark as a parasite through and on dead ones working at decomposing them.  It only infects trees which are already sick, so it can be viewed as a cleaner-upper.  In late August I also came across it in the woods in Massachusetts.

Tinder Fungus (Fnöskticka), August, Stockholm, Sweden

It grows from the bottom of the fungus and can live up to 30 years.

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I have been so busy with summer activities that I haven’t been able to post for a while.  I have a back log of plenty of photos that will keep me busy through the colder months ahead!  I thought I’d start off my return to the blog with a change in topic:  mushrooms.  I don’t know much about mushrooms, and they’re not as pleasing to the eye as many of the flowers I’ve found.  But wow are they cool.  The Sulphur Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus),or Chicken of the Woods, caught my eye on the way to work in early June.  It was growing on the base of a tree in bright yellowish-orange.  It reminds me of the stuff people use to caulk between planks in attic ceilings (or is that just my parents’ house?).

Sulphur Shelf (Svavelticka), Stockholm, Sweden

This fungus gets its name from its sulphur yellow to orange color (in Swedish, ‘svavel’ means sulphur).  The other common English name is ‘chicken of the woods’ because it can be prepared like chicken meat and it tastes like chicken.  Eat this with caution and only the young ones: people can have allergic reactions and they can contain bacteria.

Sulphur Shelf (Svavelticka), Stockholm, Sweden

This suphur shelf that I found is not so young.  It is paler and more brittle than younger specimens.  Like most of their kind, they grow on the wounds of trees (especially oaks) and produce brown rot on their hosts.

Update August 11, 2010:  Here is the sulphur shelf about a month and a half after the previous pictures were taken.  It definitely doesn’t look edible now!

Old Sulphur Shelf (Svavelticka), Stockholm, Sweden

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