More Fungi of the West Village . . .
Hurricane Irene appears to have brought on an early beginning to the autumn season. The bright sun and steady heat of July and August switched to sustained gray skies, high humidity, and cool temperatures once the storm passed through the region. NY1 news reports that over four inches of rain have fallen on Central Park during the first week of September 2011. One result of this inundation has been has been a continued bloom of fungi species in the West Village.
A stretch of low light with damp weather is an essential element of mushroom growth. Another ingredient is abundant food, in this case organic material, and the urban environment provides a rich source of nourishment from two sources. The first is the mulch and wood chips people use to cover the bare soil of their tree pits and stoop gardens. The other is dog dung, which also usually ends up on or around the base of trees. While I do not condone the laziness of irresponsible canine managers, what gets left behind does often foment the new and sometimes unusual appearance of fungi.
One type of Agaric or gilled mushroom, which grows well on wood mulch, is the delicate little Fairy Bonnet, Coprinellus disseminatus. This variety can be identified by its ash gray cap, ribbed like a sea scallop shell, and pale thin stem that reaches only one or two inches in height. What this mushroom
lacks in stature can be made up for in numbers. Dense clumps will take over a spot where dead wood is available and when conditions are right. I found mature individuals as well as one such cluster beginning to push through wood chip mulch on Bethune Street.
Another group of Agarics common to urban areas is the genus Inocybe. Members of this group are somewhat larger and thicker and can be identified by the cap, which is usually fibrous and umbonate. The umbo is the raised knob at the cap’s center that gives the organism a tented appearance. I found one stand-out example soaking up the rain beside Christopher Street. I returned the next day with my camera. Although it had begun to deflate, the mushroom’s general appearance remained intact enough for a positive identification: Corn Silk Inocybe, Inocybe fastigiata (also listed as Inocybe rimosa).
The Lingzhi Mushroom, Ganoderma lucidem, has been thriving in the rain, too. I returned to the stump along West 13th Street where I found the example I wrote into the essay “’Conked’ on the Head.” That tree gravestone is now completely ringed by new growth. The conks, deep red edged with white, look particularly attractive when wet and shiny, reflecting the silvery light of a September evening.
Mushroom identification, as I have discovered, can be challenging at best. Many species do not even possess popular names and are known only by their Latin monikers. Determining whether or not an example is edible adds another exercise in uncertainty. I have left out the subject of edibility for safety reasons. There are comprehensive resources both in print and online that can provide more authoritative information. To start, here is a trio of websites with a connection to the city environment:
Mycologist Gary Lincoff – “NYC Mushroom Survey”
NEMF: The Northeast Mycological Federation, Inc. – “Central Park in NY”
– rPs 09 08 2011