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Club and Coral Fungi
These fungi make beautiful coral-like
mushrooms. They are spectacular when they fruit in large numbers on the forest
floor. Single large mushrooms up to 50 pounds in weight are impressive. Colors
include white, yellow, orange, red, purple, or tan. The stalks are finger-like
or club-shaped. The tips of the stalks may be branched. In the most branched
species, the mushroom may appear cauliflower-like. They differ from other
mushrooms not only in their shape, but where their spores are produced. The
upper part of the "clubs", or tips of the branches, bears the spores.
They may not look like other mushrooms but they serve the same function. The
stalks serve as launching pads to elevate the
basidia (spore producing cells) above the ground. The chances for long range
spore dispersal as a result are increased.
These fungi are difficult to identify. More than 30 genera are reported. This
is unfortunate. Some species are considered among the best to eat. But one has
been reported to cause severe poisoning. A few upset the stomach and have a
laxative effect in some people. If you are not an expert, take a mushroom
identification class! Many mushroom clubs offer classes. Even if you are sure
of the identification, only eat a small bit the first time. The same species
can poison some people and have no effect on other people. They are
distinctive, but can be confused with earth tongues. If a club is small and
irregular in shape it may be an earth tongue (ascomycete).
Club and coral mushrooms can be found in the spring, fall or winter depending
on your climate. Most are decomposers. They fruit on the forest floor, twigs or
logs. A few may be partners with trees (mutualists).
They fruit on the forest floor. Some are parasitic on trees and other plants.
- Arora, D. 1986. Mushrooms demystified. Second edition. Ten Speed Press,
Berkeley, CA. ISBN 0-89815-123-4.
- Miller, O.K., Jr. 1972. Mushrooms of North America. E.P. Dutton & Co.,
New York. ISBN 0-525-16165-1.
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Last update: 14 Nov 06. © 2006, Robert Fogel, Ivins, UT