Entoloma abortivum: a mushroom parasite

One of the first mushrooms I learned to identify was Entoloma abortivum.  It is readily recognized because the typical mushrooms — with a stalk and a cap — are accompanied by aborted (hence the species name) mushrooms. The aborted masses are white and up to 3″ in diameter.

The aborted mushrooms are variously known as  ‘ground prunes,’ hunter’s heart,’ ‘shrimp of the woods,’ and, in Mexico, totlcoxcatl.  Back then, in the late sixties, we thought  that the aborted masses were an expression of the Entoloma mushroom, but in the mid 1970’s it was determined that two mushroom fungi are involved. Later it was determined that the Entoloma was parasitizing another mushroom, a species of Armillaria — the tree parasite called ‘honey  mushroom’ that is always found on wood long after the tree-host is dead.

Armillaria mellea, the honey mushroom
Armillaria mellea, the honey mushroom

The Entoloma is a decomposer. It breaks down litter in the forest and it is not mycorrhizal with trees or other plants. At least around Deering the Armillaria is more common than the Entoloma.

 

 

The Entoloma is one of the ‘pink spored’ mushrooms. It occurs on  soil, and its gills are decurrent (that is, they run down the stalk from the cap).

There is a literature about the edibility of this mushroom. Both the Entoloma and the Armillaria are edible. However, I will only emphasize that some of the pink-spored Entoloma species are toxic, and some species that have brown spores(Pholiota species) look like honey mushroom but are also toxic.

The only  constant rule with mushroom hunting is: never eat what you do not know for 100% certain.

You can read more about Entoloma abortivum at:

https://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/sep2006.html

For me, the interrelationship of these two mushrooms is one of the fascinating stories that we find in our forests.  Finding Entoloma abortivum after all these years is a treat for me.

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