Mushrooms may be deadly or delicious, beautiful or bland, magical or mundane but one thing’s certain: the fungus among us are anything but anonymous! These 10 strange & beautiful mushrooms span the imagination while spanning the globe when it comes to location.
Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey Tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) are common worldwide and often are seen growing in quantity on the trucks of dead trees. They get their colloquial name from their appearance, which resembles the fanned tail of a wild turkey. The colorful banding on the leathery “fruit” of this fungus can sometimes appear green due to algae colonizing lighter areas.
Turkey Tail mushrooms aren’t edible in the usual sense though they are often used to prepare a number of traditional Chinese medicinal formulas. Those traditional Chinese just might have been on to something: recently scientists investigating Turkey Tail mushrooms have isolated Polysaccharide-K (PSK), an immune system booster that has been approved in Japan as an adjuvant for cancer therapy.
Bleeding Tooth Fungus
Bleeding Tooth fungus (Hydnellum pecki) is commonly found in pine forests of the American Pacific northwest and in central Europe, though it has also been noted recently in Korea and Iran. It’s easy to notice: the bright red liquid oozing from the mushroom’s pores can make one think they’ve stumbled onto some botanical crime scene in miniature!
Also known as Devil’s Tooth or Strawberries and Cream, Bleeding Tooth fungus are not poisonous but instead manage to put off predators both human and animal by their extremely bitter taste. As for the striking “blood” young specimens exude, analysis has revealed it contains an anticoagulant called Atromentrin which exhibits properties similar to the natural organic anti-clotting agent heparin.
Earthstars (Geastrum triplex) are a type of puffball fungus found in a range of locations and elevations around the world. This unusual mushroom changes its appearance after emerging from the ground, with a series of “rays” curving downward and lifting the round fruiting body into the wind into which it releases its spores.
Looking somewhat like the Earth sitting upon a star, Earthstars were prized by several Native American tribes for both their medicinal properties and also as omens said to forecast upcoming celestial events.
False Morels of the species Gyromitra esculenta display an odd organic appearance likened to that of a dark purple or brown exposed brain. Found in sandy soils from North America’s great Lakes region to southern Finland, these gruesome ‘shrooms are sometimes known as Beefsteak Mushrooms and are considered good eating when prepared properly… if prepared improperly, they make a great Last Meal if you know what I mean.
Hungry zombies on the warpath? Lay out some fresh False Morels for ‘em! Unlike actual brains, False Morels of the species Gyromitra esculenta are poisonous when eaten raw and careful parboiling must be employed before using them in recipes.
Bearded Tooth Mushroom
Shagginess, here I come… or is that “Hericium”? Bearded Tooth mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus) look nothing like any other mushroom you’ve seen, even if you’ve seen more than a few. This eminently edible mushroom grows on both living and dead trees (usually hardwoods) and when cooked is said to have a seafood-like color and texture.
Bearded Tooth mushrooms (also known as Hedgehog mushrooms or Satyr’s Beard) aren’t just tasty, it seems they’re good for you too! Used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicines, these mushrooms have recently been found to have anti-oxidant properties and can reduce glucose levels in the blood. Scientists are currently investigating whether mushrooms of the genus Hericium may harbor compounds that can be used to formulate anti-dementia drugs.
Mycena Chlorophos is one of seven recently documented species ofbioluminescent fungi – there are now 71 such green-glowing mushroom species known. True Mycena Chlorophos were first formally identified in the 19th century from specimens discovered in the Bonin Islands off Japan’s Pacific ocean coast.
Other bioluminescent fungi have been found in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico and Puerto Rico, and all glow softly with the same yellowish-green hue. The bioluminescence is thought to result from chemicals acting within the fungi in a method similar to that employed by fireflies to display their characteristic evening glow.
The Dog Stinkhorn’s latin name is Mutinus caninus; the former from the Roman phallic deity Mutinus Mutunus and the latter meaning “dog-like”. Nice. This striking stalked fungus carries a dark cap of sticky spores which attracts insects and is said to exude the aroma of cat excrement. That’s odd, why not dog excrement?
Off-putting name and appearance aside, Dog Stinkhorns are “possibly edible” and have been served (to the unknowing, perhaps) in exotic locales such as West Virginia. Lord knows what other vile vittles Granny’s likely to exhume from the back 40.
Coral Fungi of the genus Clavaria look like they’d be more at home on some tropical reef, seen through the bottom of a glass-bottomed boat. Scientists have determined there are over 1,200 species ofClavarioid fungi spread across a range of different genera, families and orders.
Coral fungi can exhibit a wide variety of hues ranging from pure white through brilliant orange and rich, organic purple. These mushrooms are not considered to be edible – just imagine young Mikey’s reaction if you were to dump a bunch of purple mushrooms on the side of his plate. That’s one way to get him to eat his broccoli!
Red Cage Fungus (Clathrus ruber)
Described by one researcher as looking “like an alien out of a science fiction film”, Red Cage Fungus (Clathrus ruber) bursts forth from a whitish “egg” much the way that bizarre, all-consuming, meteor-borne creature did in the 1958 horror flick The Blob… except it doesn’t eat people, of course… OK, probably not. One apocryphal tale involving Red Cage Fungus, however, notes that Ciro Pollini, Italian author of Elementi di Botanica, once reported finding a specimen inside a tomb in a deserted church… growing on a human skull.
If its all-round weird appearance doesn’t put off the intrepid mushroom-hunter the aroma surely will. Yes indeed, Red Cage Fungus is a relative of the more common, more upright Stinkhorns and as such, it stinks: like a devilish combination of rotting meat and fresh excrement. Don’t even ask if it’s edible
Sky Blue Mushroom
The Sky Blue mushroom (Entoloma hochstetteri) is a woodland-dwelling fungus found in western parts of New Zealand’s North and South Islands as well as occasionally in India. These very delicate looking, very blue mushrooms “may” be poisonous. Maybe someone should find out for sure before some hipster chef takes to garnishing dinner plates with them.
Sky Blue mushrooms have been featured on the backs of New Zealand’s $50 banknotes since 1990, where they share space with the native Blue Wattled Crow. It’s not certain that the mushrooms and the crows are found together in the same habitat – if so, do the crows eat the mushrooms and if so, do they survive the experience?