Mycena semivestipes (Peck) A.H. Smith
Saprobic on the deadwood of hardwoods; causing a white rot; Usually growing in dense clusters; fall and early winter (but occasionally found in summer and spring).
Ordinary. Nondescript. Brown. The Mycenas garner little in the way of plaudits or glowing adjectives. That goes for all the senses. Biting into Mycenas semivestipes invites one to experience a bitter taste and, if your timing is right, a telltale whiff of bleach.
Like many organisms, M. semivestipes makes up for its lack of glamor with fecundity and hardiness. It grows in dense communities, favoring the hardwoods that provide it with nutrients, and has no problem growing in the cool of fall, the chill of early winter, or even during summer cold snaps. Once in view the M. semivestipes’s cap goes from convex to cone-shaped to nearly flat. If you need a vaguely naughty-sounding word for a weekend cocktail party, know that M. semivestipes is described in one field guide as “slightly lubricous.”
The Mycenas form a vast and fascinating mushroom genus. The 500 species include visual stunners that make up for their frequent tininess with vivid colors worthy of any forest floor fairyland. As of 2010, mycologists had also identified thirty-three Mycena species as bioluminescent. Alexander H. Smith wrote the book on Mycenas in 1947—literally—and in his almost sixty-year career collected upwards of 100,000 fungal specimens. Numerous taxa of fungus bear his name.
The UIP book Mushrooms of the Midwest describes and illustrates over five hundred of the region’s mushroom species.
Authors Michael Kuo and Andrew S. Methven provide identification keys and thorough descriptions. The authors discuss the DNA revolution in mycology and its consequences for classification and identification, as well as the need for well-documented contemporary collections of mushrooms.
Each “Mushroom Monday” get a taste of this unique and beautifully illustrated book here on the UIP blog.
Photo: Michael Kuo