fascinating fungus: a mushroom update

orange mushrooms
WITH ULTRA-MOIST CONDITIONS this summer-into-fall, I have to say the thing doing the best in the garden are the mushrooms. One odd-looking fungus after another is sprouting from mulch, at the base of trees, even in the lawn. The winner of all so far: a 2-foot-wide colony of something so fluorescent orange you could see it across the yard in mid-August (above).

Perhaps it’s Omphalotus olearius–the jack-o-lantern mushroom. Silly me: I forgot to photograph the underside–to see if there were true gills beneath the cap and how the stem and cap attached to each other–but it had disappeared before I realized my oversight a couple of weeks later. (UPDATE 9/10/11: From commenter Kristy, the suggestion is that these could be honey fungus, or Armillaria; read about those here. The colony was about 20 feet from the nearest tree, a spruce, but I’m still going with Omphalotus.)

I’ll hope for its return next year, and if it ever stops raining, I’ll be sure to be more detail-oriented when admiring the growing collection of fungi who have joined me in my garden.

You may recall my fascination with (yup!) fungus: read all about it.

  1. Zoe says:

    I’ve found a few clumps of what I think are jack-o-lanterns this summer as well, though haven’t had a chance to observe them after dark, when they are supposed to glow. I too have been admiring the amazing bounty of mushrooms with all the rain this season… and enjoying a few choice edibles (black trumpets, chanterelles, chicken of the woods…).

  2. Donna B. says:

    Finally! Someone in the northeast posted about these guys! [I have been calling them “Lawn-shrooms” since I lacked the name.] Many of the houses in my neighborhood have these amazing orange fungi growing in their front lawns – many are, sadly, destroyed and thrown into the street. I love how fluorescent and pleasantly orange they are! Wonder if there’s a way for me to get them in my yard… maybe if I smush the caps onto my grass? Hehe!

  3. Janet says:

    I found some of these along the road near my home in Kalamazoo, MI. They’re beautiful…and poisonous!

    I didn’t realize their “glowing” feature and will be excited to see them illuminating the night time when they return next year.

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Janet — crazy, right? Yes, won’t be eating any of them, despite their pumpkin color. I actually never pick wild mushrooms and eat them, since I don’t have the training to ID them with any certainty. Better safe than sorry.

      @Donna — I’m not certain of the ID, of course, but they were pretty stupendous looking. Never seen them before this year.

      @Mary — Cheez-Its…hilarious.

  4. Mary W says:

    Whenever I see these from a distance I think, “Who threw Cheez-Its in the yard?”

    Yes, the mushrooms have been fascinating this year.

  5. Terri H. says:

    I like what it said at the page you linked to… Omphalotus olearis won’t kill you [if you eat it]–it’ll just make you wish you were dead. LOL

  6. Smallpeace says:

    Oh dear. I’ve been reading up on Chicken of the Woods ever since my husband and I took a hike near Olivia’s Overlook, and an abundance of bright orange mushrooms lit up our trail. Chicken of the Woods, apparently, are completely edible, though I wouldn’t dare test the theory without an expert on hand. However, now that I see your lovely “sliced peaches,” I can’t be sure that what I was admiring was the latter. Anyone have thoughts? There’s a photo in my post if you scroll down:

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Smallpeace. The ones on your site and definitely not similar to the ones I posted. Can’t ID anything for sure, as I have no expertise, but your looks like what’s called a polypore of some kind, which the crazy group on my lawn wasn’t.

  7. Benjamin says:

    In my neck of the woods, we’re usually told that Jack O’Lanterns grow directly from rotting wood or dead, buried wood, unlike their tasty cousins the Chanterelles. It looks like yours are in the grass, though, so maybe they’re something else? Who knows what, though.

  8. Kathy M says:

    I too am fascinated with Fungi and love walking through the woods looking for new and interesting ones. heard on the radio today that this will be a banner year for all kinds of mushrooms due to the extreme rainy summer here in the east. I did find Chicken of the Woods last year and it was really delicious when sauted with some butter and fresh herbs. have also collected Puffballs when they are small and fresh and found some wonderful shaggy mane in a neighbors yard when we lived in Connecticut. would love to take a course in indentification with hands on field work but have yet to find one. Anyone have a good suggestion for a field guide of mushrooms?

  9. Kirsty Smallwood says:

    those mushrooms look suspiciously like honey fungus which will destroy trees and woody shrubs. “i hope for your sake they are not.

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Kristy — and could be, though not near a tree (maybe 20 feet away from the nearest, which still makes it possible). Fascinating! The best “key” to honey fungus, the Armillaria species, that I found is from mycologist Tom Volk. It’s here. Believe me, I will never forget to photograph the underside of a fungus again! :)

  10. ThePundit'sApprentice says:

    We suddenly spied several colonies of flat-topped mushrooms (with underside gills) so brightly orange that we thought they were surveyor’s paint, or pieces of discarded hunters’ clothing, under our oak tree garden here in suburban Northern Virginia, amid Lily of the Valley leaves and not far from azaleas and hosta. The photo near the top of this thread looks similar, but ours were really smooth on top and ranged in diameter from two to five inches. I haven’t figured out how to post a photo here, but will take photos tomorrow and see what I can do. Thoughts from experts?

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