Halloween Mushrooms

picture of Dead Man's Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha)

Looking for a fun way to spend a sunny fall afternoon in the woods? Try searching for Halloween Mushrooms. As you walk down the trail, keep your eyes alert for three distinct species.

  • picture of a Pseudohydnum gelatinosum or cat's tongue mushroom
The top picture shows the Dead Man's Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha), mushrooms worthy of any Halloween tale.

They're a saprotrophic fungus found on dead trees and trunks around the United States. As they age, they turn a darker color, like the specimen in the picture. They end of looking like knobby fingers ready to grab anyone who might seek a seat on a stump in the woods.

Fortunately, they do not jump off the stump and chase down hikers, so there's no need to run down the path.

That's a good thing because by taking a few, slower steps off the trail and into the forest will help with locating both ghosts and ghost looking mushrooms.,

The picture on the right shows a small jelly mushroom called Pseudohydnum gelatinosum. They grow on the floors of conifer forests and their translucent stem and half cap stand out against the usual green and brown background.

If anything, they are friendly ghosts, often growing next to edible mushrooms such as chanterelles.

Neither species is considered poisonous, however, the rule of wild mushrooms still applies. Look, touch, photograph and think of them as Halloween decorations rather than Halloween candy.

picture of an Orange Cup mushroom

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The Orange Cup (aleuria aurantia) mushroom, sports an orange color rivaling any pumpkin or patch of fall leaves. Its cup shape contrasts with the common cap and stem conception of a mushroom.

Cup mushrooms belong to a class of fungi formally called Ascomycetes. They are also known as sac fungi, because their spores are stored in tiny sacs, collectively called asci. Most people think Truffles and Morels when they think Ascomycetes mushrooms. Now's a great time to think Halloween Mushrooms when one thiks Ascomycetes.

Notice too the lack of the stem or stipe on the Orange Cup. They are relatively small and grow in clusters on the sides of trails and dirt roads in most forested areas of the United States. The Orange Cup in the picture is the size of a nickel.

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