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Old May 29, 2004, 11:25 pm   #1
miker
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An essay on toxic shrooms

Not long ago, I was requested by a board member to create a list of poisonous shrooms, that would encompass the most deadly, but due to the complexity of the question, I have done much debating with myself, on the proper presentation of this matter, to be understandleable in laymen terms or even to those that would prefer latin terminology, so I took into account the chance of encounter, growth patterns, lookalikes, etc. The best way I believe is the chance to encounter, so this I will base this article on.

Mushroom hunting should be broken into 3 categories,
Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary (or third stage).
But prior to the hunt, one must understand the safety aspects of the prey, that they seek.

Identificational characteristic's are needed at all times.

In the books, explanation of these, can be somewhat misleading and or confusing to those, that are only a 1 specie hunter, that wishes to expand their knowledge into other area's of the fungi world. So a brief explanation of the 2 most crucial are:

Macro study:
This is the study of the shroom itself and the surroundings in which it was found.

First is the "exterior" of the shroom, smell, shape and textures.

Is the cap is it smooth or scaly?
Does it have pits or warts?
What is the color of the cap?
Does it have gills or pores?
Do they stain another color when sliced or do they give of a liquid when sliced?
Do the gills run down into the stem?
Are they attached to the stem?
Does the stem grow freely from the substrate? Or does it have a cup or saclike growth it generates from?
Does the stem, change color when cut or pinched off?
Does the stem have dots, streaks, stripes or rings on it?
These are important questions that must be answered truthfully and wisely.

The second aspect of Macro study is your "surroundings".

Observe the growth around you.
What type of trees are present?
What types of plantlife are you walking through?
Are the shrooms at the base of the tree or are they growing on it?
Are they at the dripline, or in between the tree and the dripline? Is it a forest, a field, a pasture, a lawn?
Is the surface of the ground you found them in, covered with leaves, needles, thatch or other natural or manmade waste?
The Key here is the shroom, but your surroundings, can be the Lock on positive identification. Secondly is the micro study.

Micro study:
This study does not need a microscope. The sporeprint is all the normal shroomer needs to understand in micro studies.

All that's need to take this simple and potentially life saving test is the shroom itself, a substrate to print on, and a bowl or cup.

Let me explain how this done.

First of all, my preference is the proper substrate to which the print will be made on, is a piece of "8x10" glass or black and white paper overlapped.

Then the shroom's cap is cut free of the stem as close as possible to the cap. This cap is now placed on the overlap of colored paper's and place a bowl or cup over the shroom cap to control any drafts from blowing away the spores.

Come back in a couple of hours, and gently lift the shroom from it's resting place on the paper or glass. There should be a "colored powder" that now rests where the mushroom sat.

Now you have to determine the color.
Is it a straight shade color? (black or white) a combined coloration (pinkish-white, yellowish-brown)?
There is no spore color chart, you are on your own now,or ask for a second opinion from someone else.

Discard the paper, and mark the cup or bowl, and never return it to it's normal use. You ask why, not to use it again?

An actual event I 'am aware of, a good friend of mine, called and left a message on my recorder, stating he had found the Booted Amanita (Amanita cathurnata), and had kept a specimen for my slide collection, to print for myself.
In the meantime he had sporeprinted a specimen for proper identification for himself. He had lifted the cup from the printing, when the phone rang. While talking to his wife, his back was turned and his daughter and her friend had came in for a drink of water from playing in the hot sun that day. Luckily he heard the water running and turned around to see his daughters friend filling the cup with water.
In a stern voice he commanded her to put the cup down and she complied.
On examination of the cup, the surface of the water was covered in a white film of spores.

There is no other reason to wonder why, sporeprinting equipment shoud be kept seperate from others.

miker
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Old May 30, 2004, 2:13 am   #2
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Part II Primary mushrooms:

The Primary mushroom is the focus of the beginning mushroom hunter.
They consist of what is commonly referred to as "safe shrooms".
But looks can be decieving. Nnot so much as what one might overlook, but what one is taught.
Fortunately only one of the "safe shrooms" is the culprit of misidentification at this early stage of shrooming, but this is a bittersweet piece of knowledge, as the culprit is the Morel.

1. Morels: (Morchella elata, esculata & semilibera) these being the edible species of this family of shrooms.

Unfortunately, many amongst us have been taught that other lookalikes of the morel are edible. "Oh hell, gramps and grams ate em for years, so have I and I ain't dead yet".
This is called biding your time unwisely.

The familys of the Gyromitra, Helvella & Verpa complex of shrooms are known to be toxic, and go by many regional and slang names which are too numerous to recall and or reprint.
So yes, the Morel and lookalikes must be studied, be it by book or a walk with a seasoned hunter (latter preferred).

Only one really resembles the morel, this is the Verpa, it has pits and wrinkles just like the true morel, but lacks the body to stem chararistic's of the morel, plus it's hollow stem is filled with a cottony substance when sliced lengthwise.

2. Dryads saddle: (polyporous squamosus), no known lookalikes.

3. Oyster: (Pleurotus ostreatus) no known lookalikes

4. Giant Puffball: (Calvatia gigantus) no known lookalikes

5. Shaggy Mane: (Coprinus comatus) no Known lookalikes

6. Hen-of-the-woods: (Grifola frondosa) There Are known lookalikes, but both are edibles. The Umbrella polypore and the Black staining polypore are two. Only the Umbrella (polyporous umbellatus) is considered choice.

7. Chicken of the woods: (Laetiporous sulphereus) One known lookalike but also an edible (Laetiporous cinncinatus).

I hope you find this posting, of some use to your hunting abilities and or improve them.

The next installment of this essay will be Secondary shrooms.
It will refer to family names of shrooms rather than the vast amount of individual choice edibles that become available.
This is crucial ground where mistakes can be fatal.

Detail is a must, not an option.

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Old Jun 11, 2004, 2:51 am   #3
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Secondary mushroom hunting.

This stage of shrooming I commonly refer to as "the ABC's".

In this stage I strongly recommend you hunt with an experienced hunter or show your finds to someone experienced in identification of shrooms. If you have neither option, then all of your obsevations in macro and micro studies are a must at this stage, in this time.
Cross reference books, websites,etc, to make postive identification.
This is a must not an option!

Now you have been reading about all the finds reported by others, on these delicious shrooms called meadows, kings and chants, to name just a few.
But did you pay attention to the post that stated, someone had found an Amanita growing under a tree in a pasture, just outside an arc of horse shrooms?
Probably not. As you are too concerned with finding "eats" not "poisons".
The "chance to encounter" poisonous shrooms is now increasing, with no warning to you or anyone that might hunt with you.

In this stage I openly encourage shroomers to seek out and find Amanita's. Know your poisons before you know your foods!

The Amanita and it's poisonous allies in the family, can show up in odd places. Most books state they are more associated with trees and woodland surrounding trees. This is not the case!
I have encountered these shrooms growing in lawns, 25 yards from any tree,shrub or hedge. Iin flower beds decorated with woodchips to control weeds. Along creekbeds, paths in open fields, playgrounds in school yards.
The list could go on forever but the mistake of picking and eating one, can end abruptly.

There are 4 common points of Identification to the Amanita.

1. The volva is the most common and tell tale sign of the Amanita.
This is where the base of the stem comes out of a boot, cup or sac like growth. Sometimes this is hidden by leaves, mulch, grass clippings.
Whenever finding a large "white shroom", always clear the base of the shroom free of anything blocking your view of the base, or simply pick up a stick, and pry the shroom from the ground for identification. Don't cut it off!

With age, the cup or saclike growth, will sometimes dissolve, or shrink tight to the shroom's stalk, leaving a ring along the base of the shroom. But by this time, the following clues give it away.

2. The sporeprint, will always be whitish-creamy color, sometimes with a greyish tint. This is where a piece of glass to do the print comes in handy, as the print can be held to light and closely examined by the naked eye.

3. The gills of the Amanita, will stay white, maybe yellowing at the tip, or graying around the stem, or vice-versa.

4. The smell, after the Amanita, is freed from the earth,by cutting or uprooting, the smell becomes very unpleasant within hours.Almost tarlike or asphalty or rotting flesh.

I hope this post, will help you in your future hunts.

Tommorrow I hope to finish this (secondary) stage of posting with a good aspect of the Agaricus, Boletus and Cantharellus.

I know some out there will read this, and state "well you didn't mention this shroom, or that shroom". Remember if you know em, doesn't mean everyone else does.
This series of posts is to help the beginner, not the seasoned hunter.

miker
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Old Jun 12, 2004, 11:22 pm   #4
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Part II of secondary shrooms

In the family of Agaricus I must openly admit, that I have only been hunting these in the last few years, by encouragement of other board members. But the things I have learned in this short time boosts my confidence, but not does not deter my caution.

In this stage of hunting, I would only recommend that you hunt 3 species of the Agaricus:

1. Arvensis: commonly known as the "horse" mushroom.

2. Bitorquis: commonly known as the "tork" mushroom.

3. Campestris: more commonly known as the "meadow" mushroom.

These 3 shrooms are normally found in open areas, yards, meadows, pastures, schoolyards,etc. (this is also the growing ground of the Amanita).

Their caps can very in color from whitish-tan to yellowish-brown- greyish and texture smooth to scaly(tork). But most hunters identify them by the gill color. Usually they will start off, with a gill color white-yellowish-grey to a pinkish-brown to finally a dark chocalate-brown to blackish.

The one true identifying trait though, is the spore print, no matter how fresh or old, gill color light or dark, the sporeprint will always be blackish-brown. Sometimes with a purple like tint(tork).

These shrooms are also known to grow in circular rings, or arcs of what was left of a ring.

Care must be given here. Do not accept or adapt to the idea, that "there's another one"! This is where "chance to encounter" increases greatly!
Examine each and every shroom. Check the base of each shroom.
If the shrooms bottomside cap is still attached by the veil to the stem, peel it away and examine the color of the gills.

In these rings or arc's, 2 nasty shrooms can be encountered, that can fool on first eyesight.
These consist of the Green spored lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites) and the Sweating mushroom (clitocybe dealbata).
These shrooms will grow in rings and arc's interspersed amongst the good ones you hunt.
Remember white on white is not right for you now.

The one thing that will help you is the size and color.
The sweating(C.dealbata) is quite smaller, they normally reach no more than 2 inches across the cap and the sporeprint is white. The other the Green spored lepiota.
It lives up to it's name, Green spores. It also has scales on the cap that are centered to where the stem meets the cap. This shroom also gives off a very rank smell.

To close on this family, always keep this in mind.
If you think have found any of the choice edibles of this family, try to find young ones and older ones and sporeprint both.
If the sporeprint matches what is described here, or in your books, repeat your macro study of the shroom, try and commit it to memory.
But never ever go by memory, until you are positive in your ability to field recognize! Always rely on the sporeprint.
______________________________ ___


On the family Boletus

This family of shrooms contains some of the most sought after shrooms in the world.
Many times you have read about "the king" and or "his court". This is in reference to the choice edibles of this Bolete family.

But before I get into species (which I will refrain from), a word to advice.
Any Boletes you encounter in the wild that bruise colors of blue, brown or green when cut or handled, have a red cap and red pores or just red pores ARE NOT FOR YOU, AT THIS STAGE!!!!
No doubt you have read in your field guide or books, about how some of these are edible, don't bother. Stick with the basic's.

The above description of what not to pick, is your guideline for what to pick also.
Confusing? No!! If they exhibit any of the signs listed above, pitch it and move on.

These are some of the easiest shrooms to learn at this level of shrooming.

Two members in this classification you need to know are the Boletus and Suillus.

Boletus are some of the strangest looking of shrooms. Instead of having gills on the underside of the cap, they have pores.
By pores I mean like looking at the bottom of the cap, and it looks like it was run under a sewing machine a couple hundred times.
If you could actually see it microscopically, you would see that is actually small tubes that hang from the bottom of the cap.

Finding these shrooms is actually quite easy.
Just look for pines or any member of the conifer like trees. These shrooms love conifers and they are easy to spot in tall grass or no grass at all. They normally grow around the drip line of the tree (widest extending branches), but I have encountered them at the base of the tree also.

So you have found your first Boletes on the hunt that were not mentioned above.
What is the first thing you do besides think of the frying pan? Sporeprint is the "right" answer.

Second, wash all Boletes or Suillus caps very well. If they feel slimey, wash again! If this does not do the trick, just peel the thin skin off of the cap, and you will be alright.

Third of all, something I should of mentioned in the prior posts, was to determine if the shrooms are "bug infested".
This is easily done by slicing the stem crosswise near the base. Do you see any tunnel like openings? If so the bugs are present.

Now cut the stem crosswise close to the cap. No tunneling? Still looking good then. But be sure, by cutting the "cap" widthwise, do see any tunneling? if not you are ready for some choice eating.
______________________________ _


On the family Cantharellus.

Chantrelles
are probably the most sought after shrooms in the world. From the tropical regions to the boreal forests of the north, they are an easily Identified shroom.

The Chantrelle, has [i]4 key Identifying traits[i] .

1. First and foremost it GROWS ON THE "GROUND".
2. The smell is fruitlike or floral.
3. It grows in clumps not clusters.
4. It has descending gills.

The difference between clump and cluster, is quite a simple.
A clump of mushrooms, will grow usually no more than 2 to 8 shrooms in a small area maybe 12 to 15 inches.
The shrooms can grow somewhat close together, like right next to each other to where it would look like they are connected at the base (rarely ever connected). Iif you were to pull the shroom from the ground (not recommended), you will see a seperation is actually between the shrooms, be it paper thin to maybe a 1/4 inch or slightly wider.

A cluster of mushrooms grows from one centralized stem. (I.E. G. frondosa, H.O.W). Like all the caps and stems grow from one centralized "root", be it on stumps, logs or roots of an old dead tree.
This can be very tricky, as many times you cannot see the root or rotted wood that they grow from. This is where the "Chance to encounter" increases.

Remember your prey grows on the ground, NOT rotted wood.
I know some of you have seen in manuals and field guides, that there are species of chant's that grow on rotted wood. These are not for you at this stage.
This is where the "Chance to encounter" becomes alarming, as this is the food source of 1 mushroom that slightly resemble the Chant.

Foremost of all is the Jack-o-lantern (Omphalotus olearius).
The Nasty Jack, species is very poisonous. Again though, this species grows on wood and also has descending gills, but it grows from a "cluster" NOT a "clump" and has a centralized root structure. I have never seen a Nasty jack take on the trumpet shape of the true chantrelle. Just keep in mind, "descending gills", on the "ground", in "clumps", fragrant "smell", and you should do alright.

This will conclude the description of the common Chantrelle or Yellow Chantrelle.


Other commonly sought Chantrelles

The Black Trumpet (Craterellus fallax).
This shroom has no known lookalikes, that would even closely resemble it. It's almost literally impossible to find due to it's blending in with the surroundings of "where it grows"!
A spot of Black Trumpets is kept to ones self, more preciously than any morel ground!

The Cinnabar-red Chantrelle (Cantharellus cinnabarinus) does have some lookalikes. The Waxy caps (Hygrophorus family), but they are easily identified by their widely spaced gills that barely descend the stem. The other characteristic's of the imposters are that most of them have a point or a lump on top of the cap where the stem joins the cap, and when pinching off a chunk of the gills, and rubbing them between your fingers, you will have a waxy like substance on your fingers, that will stay that way for a couple of minutes.

Hope this post helps you find your prey a little more easier.

miker
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