Time to play: What's the fungus among us?
July 4, 2010 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Mushroom filter: I have these odd fungi growing in my back yard and am curious what they are.

They really piqued my interest because of the way it sort of grew "around" the blades of grass... it either grew so quickly -- or slowly -- that it didn't push the nearby grass and detritus out of the way, but actually surrounded and incorporated it within its own mass. They don't have gills like most mushrooms, but a dense sponge-like arrangement of tiny pores on the bottom. Their stem is irregular, and the texture of the overall body/cap/stem is quite hard & firm, not soft like most shrooms I'm familiar with. As you can see on the largest one, the stem area sort of flows up into the cap as a hardened glossy brown substance (looks a bit like dried up caramel sauce). It does have a typical "mushroomy" aroma. It resembles to me (particularly due to the hard texture), more of a type of wood fungus that you'd find growing on tree trunks like the reishi, but I don't think this is what it is, since there is no rotting wood nearby and it's growing directly out of the soil in my lawn. The lawn isn't particularly wet and is otherwise quite healthy. Is it edible? Toxic? Should I be worried if my dog eats it, or should I put it in a nice omelet? I do have a couple other species of mushrooms that also appear in our yard occasionally, but those are your everyday boring types. I'm in southern Wisconsin. Any ideas?
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The smaller ones look like puffballs. I'm not sure of some species can grow into the morphology of your large example. Try cutting a larger one in half to see if there is an internal spoor mass.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 3:11 PM on July 4, 2010

Response by poster: They're not puffballs: I have puffballs in the yard and they're totally different. No spore mass inside, the odd shrooms are dry and solid all the way through. Photo of cut specimen here. It was very tough to cut through; and as you can see, appears to have growth rings similar to a tree. The area toward the back/center, the end of the cut that looks like short gills -- those aren't gills but the inside of the part that looks like the pore-filled spongy part from the outside (I assume this is where the spores live.)
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 3:31 PM on July 4, 2010

Looks to me like some sort of Ganoderma, possibly a reshi (the color is right) possibly an "artist's conch" (Ganoderma applanatum) try scratching the white underside with a nail or something, and see if it makes pretty brown lines.
posted by St. Sorryass at 4:28 PM on July 4, 2010

Response by poster: It does leave brown marks when you scratch or press on the outside of the fungus. But isn't it very unusual for a reishi or Ganoderma to grow in soil, as opposed to wood? There is no wood or wood shavings in the vicinity of where it appeared. Well, our treated-wood deck is about 4 feet away, but I don't believe that would be related. It's coming out of the dirt and does have a sort of rudimentary stem or stalk-like structure with the main fruiting body on the top; whereas the polypore-type mushrooms don't appear to have this.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 4:38 PM on July 4, 2010

Response by poster: Oh I should also mention that the mushroom isn't growing in the shade, but in an open area that gets full sun most of the day.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 4:44 PM on July 4, 2010

Reshi, and I'm guessing most other Ganoderma, do prefer hardwood, but can fruit from many sorts of cellulose, i have grown them on wheat straw and grain, so if there is a good bit of dead plant material in the ground it could be feeding from that.
posted by St. Sorryass at 4:48 PM on July 4, 2010

Response by poster: This is quite fascinating. I suppose it's possible there's enough dead lawn material there to feed it. I wonder what would enable the mushroom to surround and "swallow" the individual blades of grass like that, rather than push them out of the way like any other growing thing would. Is this intentional on the part of the fungus... e.g.: a means of absorbing more nutrients? One would think the grass would be too flexible and delicate to not just move out of the mushroom's way. I could understand if the shroom grew around a hard thing like a rock or stick (similar to a tree growing around a barbwire fence until the wire is inside the wood), but the grass is surprising.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 5:01 PM on July 4, 2010

It is very common to see grass incorporated into mushrooms/fungus of all types, in my experience as an obsessive mushroom hunter. I think it just has to do with how quickly fungus grows.
posted by RedEmma at 9:05 AM on July 5, 2010

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