What are these weird things growing by my chrysanthemums?
May 26, 2014 4:36 PM   Subscribe

Garden experts: do you have any idea what these odd, ugly objects are growing in our garden? They have appeared in just the past few days next to a couple of mums. They look totally spooky. Are they a danger to our garden plants?

Late last summer we gutted our flower (aka weed) garden, removing a large pine tree stump, much of the soil, and weeds. We simply replaced it with a new layer of topsoil and a 3" layer of mulch (pine bark). It was so late in the season already that we didn't plant anything right away. In September I planted several fall decorative Mums to add color for the autumn, but assumed they would die off in the winter (we're in Zone 4 - Minneapolis). Happily albeit surprisingly, two plants made it through our unending, arctic winter and are growing nicely. The weird growths are emerging near the mums.

Regarding the garden bed: It gets afternoon and evening sun (partial southern exposure; full western exposure). The soil drains well, and we have not used any herbicides or insecticides (we're planting almost all native plants and only use organic materials). Over the past couple of weeks I have planted new perennials for the flower bed, but they are so small -- and planted a fair distance away from the mums -- that it seems that the new plants cannot be the source. There are still roots from the old pine tree under the soil - but the tree itself was removed 3 years ago.
posted by apennington to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think they might be some kind of stinkhorn fungi.
posted by Solomon at 4:42 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: They're almost certainly some kind of fungus, but they look to me more like a morel. Nonetheless, I wouldn't go eating them or anything unless you can get positive identification from someone knowledgeable about them.
posted by LionIndex at 4:47 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Looks kind of like morels.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:47 PM on May 26, 2014

Best answer: I was thinking morels too, keep watching them. They might be false morels.

In general, if you're getting mushrooms in your flowerbeds there's good stuff happening in the soil.
posted by natteringnabob at 4:52 PM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: They look like morels to me as well, and morels are known to grow around chrysanthemums. HOWEVER, there is a look-alike called a false morel. Check a mushroom guide for comparisons before you go chowing down.

Upside: If these are true morels, they are delicious!!
posted by ananci at 4:52 PM on May 26, 2014

Best answer: This link has a good picture of what I think might be in your flowerbed.
posted by natteringnabob at 4:53 PM on May 26, 2014

Response by poster: The Metafilter community is amazing - thank you for your speedy responses! Indeed they appear to be morels or false morels. I'll seek out a mushroom expert to help. There is possibly a nice addition to our meals in the not-too-distant future! Who would have know that some decorative mums would bring so much excitement?
posted by apennington at 5:14 PM on May 26, 2014

The dark coloration of the ridges plus the parallel vertically "laddered" arrangement of the cells are a pretty good indication that it is a species of black morel, my guess being either Morchella angusticeps or Morchella importuna.
posted by drlith at 5:23 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

They are not false morels -- they are real, actual morels.

In addition to growing in the mountains in the west and among dying trees in the midwest/south, members of the morechella species also randomly show up in mulch, and are known as "landscape morels." (Google it.) [Interesting facts in the footnote below.]

Ninety-nine times out of 100, I would tell people here not to eat that mystery mushroom unless it had been positively identified, in person, by someone who knows what they're talking about. In your case, I am 200% confident it telling you to eat that mushroom.

(I am also kind of pissed, because I went morel hunting two days ago, and I only came back with two of the fuckers.)

A note for future readers of this AskMe thread: If you find something that looks similar, please don't eat it until it is positively identified. False morels (gyromitra sp. or verpa sp.) can make you very ill.

{Interesting footnote: Why morels grow where they do is a mystery even to mycologists. In the east, they are mycorrhizal, meaning they are associated with and therefore grow near specific species of trees -- particularly (dead) elms. In the west, there is no mycorrhizal association, and they show up -- usually at elevations of 3,000 and up -- in the aftermath of forest fires, in "disturbed" landscapes (particularly logging sites, or areas in which the Forest Service's big machinery has been through, or even campgrounds), or sometimes they just kind of pop up in random locations that haven't been on fire or logged ("natural morels," to mushroom hunters). Also, old apple orchards.

And then there are the landscape morels, and they're sort of the mythical unicorn of morel hunting. There's no way of knowing where they'll pop up, and there's no explaining the locations they choose. So, just enjoy them, sauteed in a little butter, or battered and deep fried.}

posted by mudpuppie at 7:47 PM on May 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

+1 for being actual morels. They are one of the most desirable mushrooms. If you don't feel comfortable consuming them, you could pick them and let them dry, and I'm sure you could find someone who would love them.
posted by splicer at 8:11 PM on May 26, 2014

(PS: If you do cook them -- and you should -- cut them in half lengthwise and swish them in some water, then dry them off before cooking them. Those little dimples, and the hollow stem, hang on to a lot of grit. But, you don't want to soak them, just like you don't want to soak any mushroom before cooking it.)

(PPS: A hollow stem is one of the identifying features of a true morel. If the stem has any cottony stuff inside, what you've got is a false morel.)
posted by mudpuppie at 8:27 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

+1 for delicious, not spooky.

If those are true morels, you are very lucky.
posted by slateyness at 10:57 PM on May 26, 2014

My understanding is that even real morels need to be dried completely before you use them, or else they too can make you sick. But once they're ready to go, yumm!
posted by acm at 10:04 AM on May 27, 2014

Morels don't need to be dried to be consumed. You can, to an extent, concentrate flavor by drying but fresh morels are delectable. They do need to be cooked (some mycologists believe all mushrooms should be cooked so as to break down heat sensitive toxins), and even then a minority of people may have a sensitivity which can lead to mild GI distress.

But to reiterate what others have said, don't eat it unless you are 100% sure and have hopefully gotten a second opinion. And if you do decide to eat, always save a few in case somebody has a bad reaction for diagnostic purposes.
posted by ghostpony at 11:37 AM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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