"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Fall Fungi Explosion
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

Between bites of a breakfast of Marasmius oreades and scrambled egg (with a tablespoon or two of half-and-half), words on the screen tell me a column is taking shape. 

Subject matter? What else? The explosion of fall fungi brought on by rain and cooler air temps. Cold weekend rains of central and southern Indiana have, indeed, triggered a massive emergence of fall fungi. There was no better evidence than my weekly Sunday-morning march out to the street to pick up the latest edition of the newspaper for which I toiled for many years. 

My journey was halted in its tracks numerous times as I counted several unidentified species of fungi, including one member of the suspected Aminita (deadly angel) family while squinting to pick up a double volleyball-size puffball that screamed for attention at the far edge of my front-yard jungle. But the interloper that stole my attention was a brace of Marasimus, the fairy ring mushroom, that had bought into a grassy piece of the lawn. 

Later, between showers, I would photograph the players in this multi-star production of MN (as in Mother Nature). 

Frankly, I wasn’t real surprised at this turn of events. 

Vermonters Karl and Lisa, (I consider myself the mushroom godfather of Lisa) last week had e-mailed me concerning a deluge of shaggymanes, boletes, and other edibles in their northeastern neck of the woods. Obviously, time was nigh in the Midwest. And so it came. 

To add credence to that notion, from Logansport, Lynn Anderson e-mailed a report of a mushroom that looked very much like a gray morel. Being a seasoned “moreller,” Lynn wondered if that could be. 

Lynn wrote: “I have seen a mushroom that I have never seen before. It looks a lot like a gray morel (sponge) mushroom. It has a stronger odor. The inside of the stem is kind of pithy but hollow. Also, it is secreting moisture on the outside of the sponge (cap). Blowflies (bluish-green flies) are landing on them like they were dog droppings. 

“If you have any idea what they are called, and if they are poisonous, please let me know.” 

Lynn concluded that the mushrooms were in a lawn at Logansport. 

My answer: “Hello, Lynn . . . your mystery mushroom, without the proverbial “Shadow of a Doubt” is stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus) . . .the similarity of the cap to the morel (it is more lace-like) and the slime (which  attracts flies) are good indicators of its species, but an even better  identifier is the 'sucker-like' mouth (opening) at the apex of the cap . . this is a late-summer arrival, undoubtedly spawned by the rains we have been  having . .  . if you look closely at the base of the  stem (or perhaps just under the surface of the earth near the stem) you may find  eggs . . . they are attached to the mushroom by what appears to be a fine 'umbilical' cord . . . the  mushroom is edible. . .but I have never tried it because of the slime and  offensive odor. 

“Thanks for your interest, Lynn . . . I haven’t seen a stinkhorn for a few years, but have photographed them on numerous occasions.”

Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view.

Shaggymanes had not shown up in central Indiana on Monday, but could be here any time.
shags.jpg (18881 bytes)
puffball.jpg (679534 bytes)
The puffball is edible, but I do not consider it choice . . . some puffballs grow to very large proportions.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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