A Lucky Mushroom Day

Disclaimer and warning: Please do not use any information on this site to identify or eat mushrooms. Mushroom identification is a complex thing and I am only a novice!

Mushrooms of Field and Forest, PLPA 3190 taught by Kathie Hodge is quickly becoming my new favorite course at Cornell. This class takes up my whole wednesday afternoon and evening but I am not complaining. Last wednesday we went to Danby State forest (near Abbot loop) to hunt for mushrooms and it seems as though a little spell put on me by our TA using a mushroom wand (a stick covered in mushrooms) gave me some good luck. It seemed that my finds grew more and more spectacular through the afternoon.

First I found some beautiful specimens of the Ash-tree Bolete (Gyrodon merulioides), right under some ash trees, as their name suggests. These mushrooms are edible but only “ok” in the taste department according to my friend. But their spore surface is quite beautiful in my opinion. Looking like a spiderweb network of subtly ridges lines, it makes me think of a view of a complex mountain range as seen from a spaceship.

The Ash-Tree Boletes
The beautiful underside of the the Ash-tree bolete

As I bent down to pick some other rather small mushrooms I looked through the forest and spotted a large orange-ish spot on a tree 20 or so yards away. Indeed it was a mushroom and quite a large one at that! It was Big Laughing Gym (Gymnopilus spectabilis or jumonius) growing on a still live maple tree. Can you guess by the name that is might be hallucinogenic? This  sturdy stemmed, fleshy mushroom was a bit of a tricky one to identify but given its size and a few other subtle characteristics I am pretty sure it is G. spectabilis, which has recently been renamed G. jumonius. The smell of Big Gym is almost sickeningly sweet but it is said to taste bitter, although I cannot say from personal experience.

Big Laughing Gym

The underside of Big laughing gym, with a smaller one with partial veil still intact

As I continued to walk in the lowlands of Danby state forest I came across two more amazing specimens! Words would not do these two mushrooms justice. (the best always comes last)

A Beautiful Parasol Mushroom (Genus: Lepiota, Species: Procera?). Such feathery delicate features!
Here is the underside of the parasol, showing a prominent annulus (the ring that comes from remnants of the partial veil.)
And the grand finale is an Amanita muscaria var. Formosa, common name the yellow – orange fly agaric.. A picturesque, but hallucinogenic and poisonous mushroom.
Here you can see the underside of this amanita. Notice it has an annulus (the ring around the stem), although less distinctive then the lepiota, and a volva (the wide, bulbous base)

And there you have it! Well, almost. My mushroom hunt ended somewhat dramatically with an auspicious dead snake. I’ve been seeing a lot of snakes recently, which to me symbolize the ability to transform, but this snake was dead so I will take that as a sign to not test my luck with any “transforming” mushrooms.

This dead snake had two puncture wounds above its eye, almost looking like it had been bitten by the fangs of another snake. I think it is an eastern ribbon snake. If anyone has a guess as to how it might have died I would love to hear your thoughts!

below are a my own hand drawn illustrations of the four above, with key identifying features labeled.

For some more pictures of mushrooms you can check out this facebook album. Also, the Cornell mushroom blog is fun and my teachers flickr stream has some great photos.



  1. Miwa, I really enjoyed reading about your Mushroom day. What fun …but indeed dont eat any. love Grandma

    Sandra Robbins, Artistic/Executive Director

    The Shadow Box Theatre


    1. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it! Isn’t that yellow one quite something? The other pictures I found online of that mushroom doesn’t seem to have those frills but I think they are remnants of the universal or partial veil that breaks as the mushroom opens up. They were very fragile and rubbed off soon after I picked it so I think I just found a really good, fresh specimen that had probably recently opened up!


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