Mushrooms in the Middlesex Fells – Identifications!

We recently had some warm weather often extremely frigid conditions between Christmas 2017 and the first week and a half of 2018. Well, it warmed up to about 13 °C / 55 °F on Saturday so I hit up the Middlesex Fells with the dog.

Over Christmas I’ve been reading more and more about fungus and mushrooms and I really wanted to go to a few locations where I had seen mushrooms during the summer and  autumn season last year. So the first place I went was a silver birch tree very close to the east side of Bellevue Pond on South Border Rd, Medford, MA, USA. I had seen these really curious white balls on this live tree in early September and at the time I really didn’t know what they were. They certainly looked fungal/mushroomy but I was expecting to see a more typical mushroom shape and was surprised that if this was a mushroom that it could push through the bark. See the images below:

Fast forward to now and after significant snow melt, the same tree looks like this:

Cool, they did turn into a more typical ‘mushroom’ shape. After some web searches and reference mushroom books I identified this mushroom as the birch polypore (Fomitopsis betulina). One of the lobes/caps had fallen off and was on the ground nearby so I picked it up and flipped it over.

You can see the underside doesn’t have gills but pores. The margin (edge) of the cap rolls over and under the underside, exactly matching the birch polypore description. (I took this sample home!) Below is a closeup on the cap that formed at the bottom of the tree – it was still attached.

It turns out this mushroom is edible but doesn’t taste very good. I didn’t eat this one. It contains a number of compounds that are suppose to be good at killing some intestinal worms and has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Well, research continues.

Another fungus I encountered was as an odd looking jelly-like mushroom. See below:

I wasn’t even sure this thing was a fungus. Some research showed that, yeap it is! And a well known fungus that comes out this time on year (deep winter). Its the amber jelly roll or willow rain (Exidia recisa). Apparently it is edible but does not have an interesting taste, nor is it fowl or bitter.

I have many more photos from last Summer and I may get into some more identifications of those as well. It is amazing how many different kinds of mushrooms are out there, even in the dead of winter.

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