Late July 2015: High season, and the recovery of the Wallow Fire

 

This update comes rather later than I had hoped, but it’s now clear that high season for our summer mushrooms is well under way. Since our previous report in early July, the monsoon rains have been moderately abundant, especially in the White Mountains. Essentially every familiar choice edible variety (with the sole exception of Hericium) has been now been collected and posted to our Facebook page.

IMG_5849

The porcini have been especially early and common so far this year. Our “Rocky Mountain Red King” was formerly considered a variant of B. edulis, but has recently been elevated to species rank as B. rubriceps. Since then, many members of the Arizona amateur mushrooming community have taken to calling them “rubies”, in homage to their new specific name and reddish color, as well as the high regard with which we all cherish these treasures of the forest. Horace Sheffield found what looks like the best patch so far this summer, with a dozen or more under one tree in the White Mountains.

But many other collectors have had excellent success on this species too, notably in the White Mountains, but also to some extent on the Mogollon Rim and even a few around Flagstaff.

The prize for the biggest overall haul probably goes to Katey Kowalewski, and the whopping collection below is by no means the only big day she’s had on the porcini grounds of the White Mountains.


Those who love the slightly sweeter taste of our other prominent porcino, the Barrows’ Bolete (B. barrowsii) also have had cause for celebration. They have been pretty common this year, with some unusually large fruitings, including this spectacular flush of a dozen or more right down the road from Ed Coleman’s and Laurie Herring’s place in Nutrioso.

(Laurie Herring)

(Laurie Herring)

These have been found in pretty good numbers everywhere above 7000 feet or so, in conjunction with ponderosa pines as well as fir and spruce.


This year has also been good for some other unusual boletes. The chrome boletes or yellow-footed boletes (Harrya chromapes) have been especially thick this year on the east end of the Mogollon Rim around the AZ-260/FR-300 intersection. This predominantly Eastern species is found nowhere else in the West outside Arizona and New Mexico.  It’s a tasty edible, if you can beat the fungus gnat larvae to it.

There has been no shortage of Leccinum and Suillus, as well. Those who like the flavor (if not the texture) of these lesser boletes have had the opportunity to take home wheelbarrow loads if they so desired.

The unusual bright-red-stemmed bolete below was found on the East Rim in some abundance a couple of weeks ago. There is only mild, slow blueing after it is cut or bruised. I gave up on keying it out but boletologists are welcome to chime in below if they recognize it. Caloboletus calopus, perhaps? But it was not especially bitter to the taste. Xerocomellus? Heck if I know. Not recommended for consumption unless you’re a lot more knowledgeable than I.

Here it is with a colorful menagerie of its cousins, again all from the East Rim in the vicinity of Bear Canyon Lake in mid-July.

(Mike Dechter)

(Mike Dechter)

Another unusual yellow-pored bolete from the East Rim showed amazingly fast blueing that faded to brown over 15 minutes or so. Taste was bland. Again, not sure where it belongs, but perhaps in Butyroboletus?

Here’s the blueing reaction on video:

One more colorful red-pored, red-stemmed oddball from the Boletaceae was found by Steve Banbury. Something akin to Boletus subvelutipes, perhaps…

(Steve Banbury)

(Steve Banbury)


While we’re on the subject of species with pores, the Polyporales of summer have appeared in substantial numbers.

Our unique Arizona cauliflower mushroom, Sparassis americana var. arizonica, has been more abundant than in many years.  Kevin Widner has found it three or four times already in the White Mountains, including five in one day.

(Kevin Widner)

(Kevin Widner)

Note the pinkish tinge and rather fimbriate margins on the leaflets that separate this subspecies from the other Western cauliflower mushroom, S. radicata. This is a delicious one that ranks up there in pretty much everyone’s top five for the table, and is especially famed for how amenable it is to drying and later reconstitution.

Any day you find this relatively rare mushroom is a big win, but how much bigger a win is it when you also run across an equally rare but very well-known mycologist in the Arizona boonies? Here’s Katey with David Arora up in the White Mountains.

Sparassis-katey-david


 

Another noteworthy polypore that appears in some abundance along the Mogollon Rim is the varnish shelf, a.k.a Reishi or Ling-zhi, Ganoderma tsugae, a major player in the alternative and traditional Asian medical community. I found this “Tower of Reishi” near Kehl Spring and dried some in the sun for my friends who like this one.


A “Chicken of the Woods” was found beside the Rim Road by Nicholas Kern. This is the first time in a couple of years I’ve seen this type in Arizona. It looks like it’s on hardwood and is therefore most likely Laetiporus gilbertsonii.

(Nicholas Kern)

(Nicholas Kern)

A couple of other similar specimens have a darker tinge that might make you think it’s a real old Chicken of the Woods, but at least one of these looks like the Dyer’s Polypore, Phaeolus schweintzii.

But none of these finds, even the big finds of Sparassis, can compare to what Bill Warner discovered a week ago on the Mogollon Rim. This striking polypore is, according to the very experienced and erudite Mr. Warner, none other than a young Grifola frondosa, the famous Hen of the Woods, Sheep’s-Head, or Maitake mushroom. This species is a rare find in the Western US, and has never been recorded in the Bates checklist of Arizona macrofungi. This one would be the farthest-west collection from the wild on Mushroom Observer if he had entered it there. Unfortunately, the evidence for this was lost, as Warner’s palate triumphed over his scientific rigor, and the specimen was cooked and consumed. But well done, Bill; I am sure you saved the location and will set aside a specimen for microscopy sometime in years to come.

(Bill Warner)

(Bill Warner)


 

Moving from pores to teeth, we’ve had a few hedgehog mushrooms (Hydnum sp., probably H. repandum) turn up already this summer. These delicious edibles are just about foolproof for beginning mushroom hunters.

I’ve also seen a few hawk wings (Sarcodon imbricatus). This is another great target for novice hunters. Its sometimes bitter taste can be avoided by choosing only younger specimens, and boiling them thoroughly before preparing them according to your own recipe.

(Lisa Goodwin)

(Lisa Goodwin)


And now for the gilled varieties. First, let’s talk about our favorite false-gilled mushroom: the chanterelles of genus Cantharellus. Around here, these are now generally considered to be C. roseocanus.

This has been a very productive and very early season for these golden beauties, which are another member of my Top Five, and I suspect the same of everyone else who has tried them. Their delicate flavor goes exceedingly well with omelettes and soups.

It requires some care to distinguish them from impostors, but once you’ve successfully found and identified a handful you should be good to go.

From Flagstaff, the Rim, the White Mountains, and elsewhere, the quality, size, and quantity of the chanties this year has been remarkable.

The cornucopia of chanterelles this year brings back fond memories for people who lost so many of their favorite chanterelle patches in the Wallow Fire of 2011. It’s been rough for them, but there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

Two weekends ago Kevin Widner and I spent some time traversing the burn scars along Three Forks road and on Escudilla Mountain.  We found a pretty decent variety of fungi, some of them choice edibles. Among others, we saw cauliflower, B. rubriceps, B. barrowsii, lobsters, Floccularia straminea, and many chanterelles. These chanties were commonly coming up in association with post-fire aspen seedlings, and it appears the mycelium that was scorched is now being revived or recolonized.

If you thought your favorite chanterelle patch was gone forever, it may not actually be, and this is the year to go back to have another look.


Among the true gilled mushrooms, some folks are still finding the shiitake-like giant sawgill, Neolentinus ponderosus, growing on Ponderosa pine stumps. Great in Asian cookery and for pickling.


 

Many Amanita species are now coming up. This includes toxic varieties such as A. muscaria and A. pantherina, but also edible species such as A. novinupta (formerly A. rubescens), various grisettes in section Vaginatae, and a few examples of our Southwestern “Sun Caesar” in the A. caesareae group. This latter variety has been provisionally named A. “cochiseana by amanitologist Dr. Rod Tulloss, but not yet published. It can fruit in large numbers in some years, but not yet this year.

It bears repeating that the genus Amanita, which contains some of the world’s most deadly mushrooms, is for consumption by very experienced collectors only. 


A number of Agaricus collections have been made, notably the choice edibles A. augustus and A. arvensis, as well as the red-staining A. amicosus. This is the first time I’ve seen the Prince collected in our state, and I hope to get a chance to try this one before the end of the season.

This is another genus that is not for novices. While there is no deadly poisonous member of Agaricus, there are multiple “sickeners” such as A. xanthodermus that will cause gastrointestinal difficulties. Key these out carefully, test their compatibility with your stomach slowly, and consider getting your hands on some potassium hydroxide, nitric acid, and aniline for the KOH and Schäffer tests if you intend to experiment with this genus.


The Sun Mushroom or Golden Robe, Floccularia straminea, and its relative F. albolanaripes are both worth a look if you’re collecting for the table, and a thing of beauty if you’re not. The bright lemon yellow color, shaggy/scaly stem, shaggy veil remnants at the periphery of the cap, and notched yellowish-white gills make this fairly easy to identify.

floccularia-straminea-david-jacobs

(David Jacobs)

 

The cap typically has flat fibrillous scales too. However, these can wash off in the rain, making it possible to mistake this edible species for the likes of the Tricholoma equestre shown below, which is also fruiting right now. This so-called “Man on Horseback” used to be considered edible, and is undeniably tasty, but its consumption is related to a rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown) syndrome that has caused deaths in Europe.  Note the lack of scales on the cap and stem, and the adnexed gill attachment. Don’t eat these!


One of the great finds of the season was from down in the Huachuca Mountains. Eddie Bolero discovered a Macrolepiota, closely related to the well-known European “Parasol Mushroom”, M. procera, but likely to be a different species. This is a very highly regarded edible, but again requires great caution. The cap should be no less than 5 inches (12 cm) diameter to distinguish it from the smaller members of the genus Lepiota that may be deadly poisonous, and the gills and spore print must be white to differentiate it from the common sickener Chlorphyllum molybdites.

(Eddie Bolero)

(Eddie Bolero)


Other commonly seen species these days include oyster mushrooms in abundance (Pleurotus spp.), milk caps (Lactarius spp.), the elfin saddles of Helvella that are no longer recommended for consumption, shaggy manes (Coprinus comatus), coral mushrooms like Ramaria or this Artomyces pyxidatus, waxy caps (Hygrocybe/Hygrophorus spp.), and most especially, lobster mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum).

Yes, some people are really, truly cleaning up on the lobster mushrooms this year… This is Sarah Fish’s car trunk from this evening.

lobster-trunk-sarah-fish

May all your collecting efforts be so amply rewarded! See you at the Arizona Mushroom Club foray on Aug 15-16.

About Christopher May

Chris is a radiologist in private practice in Scottsdale. He is married to Barbara May, with two grown children, Megan and Nick.
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6 Responses to Late July 2015: High season, and the recovery of the Wallow Fire

  1. Mike Dechter says:

    Awesome write-up. Thank you Chris for documenting this undeniably amazing year here in AZ.

  2. LarryA says:

    Hey Chris, these look great and all but when are you going to call a club foray for the rest of us who are chomping at the bit to join and get in on the activities?

    • Christopher May says:

      Heh heh, I’m not in charge of that. I’m a member of the club but not an officer; this web site is merely my private commentary. But there will certainly be a club foray in the White Mountains two weekends from now, and very likely another on the Rim in late August or early September, rainfall permitting.

      • LarryA says:

        Ohhhhh I see. I thought you were the head honcho of the club. Yeah I did see a thread about the upcoming foray in the White Mountains after I posted here. It’s a bit far for me but the Rim is pretty close. Maybe I’ll just wait a little longer for the second foray. Thanks for the heads up.

  3. Deuce Jacobs says:

    Great collection of photos. It’s one thing to see the mushrooms in a book, more tangible to see them collected from the area you know. Thanks for the effort Chris!

  4. Daren says:

    Does anyone know about chaga and if it grows here in/ Arizona went up north yesterday but only found an inedible look alike
    BTW just a pup with the mushroom biz I’ve been reading about the chaga mushroom and its health benefits and with getting a little older(40 on the 30th) I’ve been thinking about my health and getting more natural resources ie mushroom’s Kombucha tea ect any help with any resources is greatly appreciated
    Thanks again.

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