Elite life



   Until recently, Armillaria was a rather large genus, containing over 200 species. However, a series of publications over the past 10 or 20 years has changed all of the above. Armillaria is now much smaller, and most of its former species have been spread out through 25 other genera (most notably, from an amateur mushroomer's standpoint, Tricholoma). In the wake of the storm, Armillaria includes only white-spored, wood-rotting mushrooms with gills that are attached to the stem or run down it; most species are parasitic, and many form visible black rhizomorphs in the wood.


The Honey Fungus (Armillaria mellea)

   The classic honey mushroom, Armillaria mellea, turns out to be limited to roughly the eastern half of North America, from about the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast and the East Coast and perhaps to northern California, where it has been reported. It usually grows in clusters on hardwoods, but is occasionally found on conifers. It has a fairly smooth cap, a sturdy ring on the stem, and fused stem bases that are tapered to points. Under the microscope, it has basidia that are not clamped at their bases.
   Cap: 3-15 cm, convex to broadly convex or flat in age; the margin often arched in maturity; dry or tacky; color extremely variable, but typically honey yellow; smooth, or with a few tiny, dark scales concentrated near the center and vaguely radially arranged.
   Gills: Attached or beginning to run down the stem; nearly distant; whitish, sometimes bruising or discoloring darker.
   Stem: 5-20 cm long; .5-3.5 cm thick; tapering to base due to clustered growth pattern; tough and fibrous; smooth and pale near apex, darker and nearly hairy below; with a persistent ring at maturity and a white partial veil covering the gills when young.
   Flesh: Whitish to watery tan.

Bulbous Honey Fungus (Armillaria gallica)

   Armillaria gallica is growing on the wood of hardwoods and occasionally on conifers. Mushrooms appear alone, gregariously, or in loose clusters, usually appearing terrestrial (but actually attached to roots), but sometimes fruiting from the bases of trees and stumps; late summer and fall; widely distributed east of the Rocky Mountains. Armillaria gallica is edible, but it is a species known to cause minor gastric troubles for some people. If you are going to try it, eat only a few bites the first time you do so.
   Cap 3-15 cm across, very variable, convex to shield shapped, yellow brown, tawny, to dark brown, often with an olivaceous tinge, covered in darker fibrillose scales especially at the centre. Stem 60-150×5-15 mm, often bulbous towards the base, yellowish becoming reddish-brown at the base, initially with a thick whitish to yellow cottony ring. Flesh white. Taste astringent, smell strong. Gills white at first then yellowish becoming pinkish-brown and often darker spotted with age. Spore print pale cream. Spores elliptic, 8-9 x 5-6 μm. Habitat in clusters on or around trunks or stumps of deciduous and coniferous treesor shrubs. Season summer to early winter. Very common. Edible when cooked but should only be eaten in small amounts as some forms are known to cause stomach upsets. Distribution, America and Europe.

Armillaria calvescens

   Armillaria calvescens is similar to Armillaria gallica, so similar that the two species cannot reliably be separated without attempting to "mate" them in a laboratory. The range of Armillaria calvescens is more northerly, however. It is also found solitary on the soil, but is usually found in large clusters, sometimes up to several hundred fruiting bodies, although the stipes do not radiate from a common point as in Armillaria mellea.
   Pileus tan to brown, with no scales, but a finely fibrillous surface that can be easily rubbed off, leaving a "mealy" texture between your fingers. Veil golden yellow, sometimes not easily observed, sometimes leaving fibrils on the stipe, which is often swollen at the base. Usually found on maple in southeastern Canada and New England, but also found on a variety of other hardwoods west to Michigan and Wisconsin. The mycelium of this species has also been found in the Canadian prairie provinces, although has not been observed fruiting there. Spore size 8.5-10.

Honey Mushroom, Shoestring Rot (Armillaria ostoyae)

   This species is mostly restricted to conifers and is a serious pathogen of many species in the northern conifer zone. It is also found in caespitose clusters, sometimes pointed at the bases of the individual stipes, with a brownish annulus. This is the most common variant in the western U.S.
   The pileus is brown colored, covered by dark scales, and can be very large, up to 1 foot in diameter, especially in the Pacific Northwest. This is the species that has been reported to cause some people some gastrointestinal upset if collected from hemlock, but we believe that most of the reported upset is due to undercooking (and overeating) of some of these larger collection. Spore size 8-11 x 5.5-7 μm.

Armillaria sinapina

   This species is similar in color to Armillaria ostoyae, with similar, although somewhat smaller dark scales on the pileus. It normally occurs singly or sometimes in clusters of two or three. In the Northeast it can be found mainly on hardwoods and occasionally conifers, but in the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Washington, Alaska, British Columbia) it seems to be more common on conifers, although it is often found on aspen there.
   In the Northeast, the major morphological character that distinguishes this species from the others is the "presence of a golden yellow universal veil that covers young fruiting bodies and later leaves remnants consisting of yellow warts or lumps of tissue on the cap, a yellow fibrous annulus, and many patches of fibers on the stipe". However, we have not observed this yellow coloration on western specimens. Spore size 8.2-10 x 5.9-8 μm.

White Matsutake (Armillaria ponderosa)

   Habitat scattered to numerous under pine and in sandy soil, especially near coastal areas. Common. Found in northern North America and the Rockies. Season August-November (December-February in California). Edible-excellent. Known among Orientals as the White Matsutake. This is one of the most sought after edible mushrooms.
   Cap 5-20 cm across, convex becoming flatter with an inrolled, cottony margin becoming somewhat uplifted in age; white with flattened reddish-brownish scales and spots, particularly over the center; tacky becoming dry with streaks of brown fibers near the margin. Gills adnexed, crowded, narrow to broad; whitish staining pinkish brown. Stem 50-150 x 20-40 mm, hard, firm; white becoming pinkish brown from scales and patches of veil remnants; white and cottony above the ring. Veil partial veil leaves thick, soft, membranous ring on the upper stalk. Flesh firm; white. Odor distinctly fragrant. Spores broadly ellipsoid to globose, smooth, nonamyloid, 5-7 x 4.5-5.5 μm. Deposit white.

Armillaria zelleri

   Habitat scattered or in groups under pine and aspen. Sometimes abundant in Pacific Northwest. Found in northern North America and California and reported from Tennessee. Season July-August (December-February in California). Said to be edible but not recommended.
   Cap 5-15 cm across, obtuse becoming flat or broadly convex with an umbo and an incurved, cottony margin; orange, brown, olive, and yellow mixed; slimy and minutely hairy. Gills actuate, close to crowded, narrow to moderately broad; whitish staining rusty brown. Stem 40-130 x 10-30 mm, tapering to a pointed base; white and cottony above ring, below ring the sheath breaking into orange scales and patches. Veil partial veil leaving membranous, ragged ring on upper stalk. Odor mealy, unpleasant. Taste mealy, unpleasant. Spores ellipsoid, smooth, nonamyloid, 4-5 x 3-4 μm. Deposit white.


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