Sunday, July 7, 2013

Devils urn

The Devil's Urn (Urnula craterium) is a very common spring season mushroom that can be found in deciduous hardwood forests throughout Eastern North America. Look for them in March thru May after seasonal rainfalls. These mushrooms share a symbiotic relationship with hardwood trees, especially oaks. All mushrooms have a network of fungal cells called mycelium, these mycelium attach to the roots of trees and feed off the sugars in the roots. This breaks down the dying roots and wood of the trees speeding up the decaying process.

Devils' urn mushrooms were first described in 1822 by American botanist Lewis David de Schweinitz as Peziza craterium, based on a specimen found in North Carolina. In 1849, naturalist, Elias Magnus Fries described this mushroom and placed it in the genus Urnula. After this placement there was much debate over where this mushroom belonged and it was placed in the genus Geopyxis. It wasn't until many years later and after microscopic inspection that this mushroom was once again categorized in the genus Urnula.

The Devil's urn mushroom resembles the very delicious black trumpet mushroom, but is not considered an edible mushroom. Although not particularly poisonous they are not considered nutritious or worth bothering with . While not edible they do appear in the woodlands at virtually the same time as morel mushrooms. For some people the appearance of robins herald in the spring, but for those who love mushrooms it is this very mushroom that is the harbinger of spring. Consider this quote found in Petersen's: A Field Guide to Mushrooms: "The black cups emerging through the fallen leaves from March to May are true harbingers of spring."

The genus name of Urnula translates to little urn, and the species name craterium translates to small crater. When they first emerge through the ground they resembled little grape clusters after a few days they will look like little fingers before finally reaching the last stage of little open urns.The appearance of these mushrooms is a sign of healthy soil.

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