It’s early November. We had unseasonably warm weather not so long ago, but over the past week the temperatures have fallen and now are hovering around freezing during the day. Happy as I am for this return to normalcy, it’s not good for mushrooms.
Mushrooms do have seasons. Morels in the spring start the ‘shroom year and the number of species increases as the year advances, peaking in the fall with the return of rain after a dry summer. As temperatures fall, though, the number of mushrooms coming up declines. Here at the end of the year, apart from brackets that are tough, few mushrooms are fruiting.
The oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus, begins fruiting soon after the fall rains, on various hardwood trees. This species will continue to fruit through into Spring. Oysters are fairly common around Deering and are highly prized as edibles.
Another late season mushroom that is fruiting widely in Deering now (11 November) is the Brick Cap, Hypholoma sublateritium. This species comes up on hardwood stumps and buried wood, often in fascicles of several. It is notable for its brick-red cap that is paler, ochre, toward the margin; gills that are yellowish at first but become grayish-brown or grayish-olive. The spore print is purple-brown. There is no ring on the stipe, which is yellow above and reddish toward the bottom. Brick Cap fruits through fall into early winter. I have been noticing it in the past week in Deering (Dudley Brook – the Venter conservation easement, and the trail to High Five).
Brick Cap is common in the east and is said to be edible. But, as always, you have to be careful. Galerina autumnalis is a somewhat similar mushroom in its small size and in having a brown cap and a ring on the stalk. It is deadly poisonous. Another somewhat similar poisonous mushroom is the Sulphur Tuft, Hypholoma fasciulare. This species has a yellow cap that can be brown or ochre in the center. Like Brick Cap, this species grows in fascicles from stumps and buried wood of hardwoods and conifers. It fruits through fall into winter and is widely distributed in North America.