I led a mushroom walk in the woods a few weeks ago for the Finger Lakes Land Trust. It was a lovely Fall day, and my little group found many handsome and curious mushrooms. Among them was one that was handsomer and curiouser than the rest. Its finder Susan quickly dubbed it the “dog’s nose fungus.” Another member of the group argued that it better resembled a small and delicious chocolate tart, but it was getting close to lunch time and I’m not sure that he was thinking clearly.
For those of you unacquainted with the texture (and the cold wet feeling) of a dog’s nose, I have included Exhibit A, a photograph of the nose of Ebumu. Our find resembled a dog nose in its bumpy texture, its blackness, and also in its glistening wetness–a wetness produced from the fungus itself without help from rain or dew. It was, coincidentally, almost exactly the size of my dog’s nose. Here it is:
Turns out this is Peridoxylon petersii, an uncommon fungus in these parts, though it is perhaps commoner in the southeastern US. We have no records of it at all in the Cornell Plant Pathology Herbarium (CUP). It’s been found just a few times ever by participants in the Northeast Mycological Foray3, and the New York Botanical Garden has only a handful of New York records4. It’s also known as Camarops petersii—whether you put it in the genus Camarops or the genus Peridoxylon depends on whether you think it’s distinctly different enough from other species of Camarops to warrant its own genus1. A recent paper by L. Vasilyeva and colleagues2 presents a good argument for calling it Peridoxylon, and I’m sticking with them.
This fungus is a large perithecial ascomycete, not a mushroom. Its fruiting bodies grow on rotted logs (probably oak, in this case), and presumably the mycelium is breaking down the wood somehow. Its black spores are produced just below the glistening upper surface in tiny pear-shaped structures called perithecia. Most of its relatives make minute fruiting bodies too small to see with the naked eye. The large fruiting body of P. petersii includes many individual perithecia–you can tell they’re lurking just below the surface from the little bumps, which are where the perithecia open to allow the spores to shoot out.
So here’s an apparently rare fungus (at least for New York). It turns out that it’s hard to say for sure how rare it is, because New York doesn’t have a list of rare fungi, nor even a list of the fungi known from the state. I’m thinking it’s time to start developing such lists, at least for macrofungi. It’s a tough job, because fungi are hard to survey for (being both ephemeral and small), and they’re hard for ordinary folks to identify. I think it’ll take a community effort, and I’d like you folks to help.
I’m going to start with a simple request:
which macrofungi do YOU think are rare in New York?
Leave me a comment or get in touch and we’ll roll up our sleeves and get started.
- Nannfeldt, J. A. 1972. Camarops Karst. (Sphaeriales-Boliniaceae), with special regard to its European species. Svensk Botanisk Tidskrift 66:336-376.
- Vasilyeva, L. N., S. L. Stephenson, and A. N. Miller. 2007. Pyrenomycetes of the Great Smoky Moutnains National Park. IV. Biscogniauxia, Camaropella, Camarops, Camillea, Peridoxylon and Whalleya. Fungal Diversity 25:219-231.
- The Northeast Mycological Foray (NEMF) Lists, maintained online by Gene Yetter. (thanks Gene!)
- Go ahead, search for Camarops petersii in the New York Botanical Garden herbarium. (thanks again, Gene!)