Saturday, August 18, 2012

Molly Eye-Winker

These brightly colored discs are a type of fungus known as an eye-lash mushroom belonging to the family Pyronoemataceae. Fungus in this family are saprophytic  which basically means they gain their nutrients from other sources, such as from  rotting logs, stumps, damp soil, wet leaves or even ashes. With optimum conditions these fungus will thrive and grow. They are often found in clusters, like pictured above. The tiny black "lashes" are visible under a magnifying glass, but are difficult to see with the naked eye. I had never seen this species before and it wasn't until I took the pictures off the camera and looked at them on the computer that I noticed the lashes. These are charming, colorful albeit tiny mushrooms with no culinary value. There are reports that claim they are inedible, still others claim they are edible, either way they would lack any real interest in the culinary world as they lack an flavor, odor or texture.

 These little fungus' are found nearly Worldwide; in North America they are more commonly found in winter and spring. Look for them in damp areas on logs and stumps. They are extremely tiny, measuring up to 1/2 inch in diameter. If it weren't for the bright orange-red coloration they would most likely go unseen.
The underside and edges are brown and the lashes are black. The cup is smooth and may vary in color from bright red, to reddish-orange.

The ones photographed here were photographed at Honey Creek Conservation Area in Andrew County, MO. We had a wonderful warm, damp winter that was conducive to a lot of fungus growth. The morels arrived early with the first ones found March 17th. By the first of April here in NW Missouri the morel season was over which is unheard of around here, typically it is just beginning at that time.

 I found numerous other species I've never seen before this year and will be posting them here periodically. This one is perhaps my all time favorite of the new varieties I found. When spring gave way to summer we had already been without rain for weeks and headed into what looked to be a drought. We are midway through August now, and it has been the hottest, driest summer since the 1930's. Where I live we've had about an inch of rain in 10 weeks. Most any living plant has died, trees began losing their leaves a couple of weeks ago. I believe we will see and early fall. With all this dry, hot weather there have been no interesting fungus to photograph this summer. I am hoping that once fall does arrive we will get some rain with it.  Perhaps with the return of rain, the fungus will follow. I know the rest of us will sure appreciate some much needed rain.

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