Don’t be fooled!
Since moving from California, I have been having to learn a lot about the living creatures here in the south-eastern part of the United States. One thing that I have noticed is that the varieties of mushrooms are much different than those I was familiar with in the west. One of my favorite mushrooms when we lived in Sacramento could be found growing in the grass at the neighborhood park. It was the Shaggy Mane. It was delicious when fried in butter with some onions. I felt very confident that I could identify it and not confuse it with other types of fungi.
My California Favorite:
Now let’s compare with another Mushroom:
Here in Tennessee, where we currently live, there is another Mushroom variety that looks similar when it first emerges from the ground. Both this Mushroom and the Shaggy Mane often appear above ground almost magically after the Spring, Summer, and Fall rains. But don’t let that behavior fool you. This Mushroom is the most frequently eaten poisonous mushroom in North America. It’s scientific name is Chlorophyllum molybdites.
It also goes by these common names: “False Parasol“, “Green-Spored Lepiota“, and the “Vomiter.” Guess what? It is called that for a very good reason.
Below you see the top of the caps of the Vomiter:
In the picture below you see the gills on the underside of the cap.
Some Things Seem To Look Really Edible…but :
It is interesting to note that those who have carelessly eaten this Mushroom found it tasty going down. It was a couple hours later that they knew that had made a terrible mistake. The symptoms of the poisonous effects include: severe gastrointestinal pain, sweating, weakness, diarrhea, and vomiting. Some who have eaten them actually vomit up to 20-30 times in two hours! That would be no fun!
How Can You Be Sure?:
The most difficult time to tell the two types of mushrooms apart is when they first emerge from the ground. As the Mushroom fruiting bodies continue to grow it is rather easy to see the differences. The “Vomiter” (Chlorophyllum molybdites ) opens up like an umbrella into a large circle. The Shaggy Mane remains like a closed umbrella, tall and skinny and begins to dissolve into an inky liquid from the bottom edges of the cap. The gills of Vomiter turn from white to a greenish-gray color.
In This Case, Green Doesn’t Mean “Go”!
Mycologists, scientists who study mushrooms, have learned that the best way to identify mushrooms is by making a spore print and checking the color of the image the spores leave on a piece of paper as they drop from the bottom side of the cap from the gills.
To make a spore print you should remove the stem of the Mushroom and place the cap, gill-side down on a piece of white paper. Put a jar or other cover over the cap to keep it moist within which activates the spores to fall from the gills. Though an individual spore can not be seen with the naked eye, when they fall on the paper by the thousands they create a image that is very visible. Different kinds of mushrooms have different colors of spores that help in identification. You can also use a microscope to look more closely at the spores. Spores vary a lot in size and shape as well as color. If your spore print is green, Stop! Don’t eat it! Chlorophyllum molybdites is the only Mushroom in North America with green spores. The Shaggy Mane has dark black spores. If you look at the spores of the Vomiter under a microscope with high magnification, the spores will look like lemon seeds in shape with a greenish color.
Making a Spore Print:
Separate the cap from the stem and place the gill side down on the paper.
Cover the caps with a bowl to keep the moisture and the spores inside.
Check the Ring Around the Stem.
The annulus, the ring around the stem of the Vomiter can easily be moved up and down the stem when moved with your fingers.
Fairy Rings: Have the Fairies Danced Here?
In the above picture you can see part of a circle of these mushrooms. Amazingly, these mushrooms often pop up over night making it seem almost magical. In the past, the superstitious thought that it was magic, that fairies had danced there the night before they appeared. How else could they be there? Well, the part of the fungus we call the Mushroom is actually the reproductive part of the creature. These fruiting bodies only appear when the conditions are right for spore dispersal. Under the surface of the ground is the actual creature. It will look like tiny strands of hair, (mycelium), with an appearance much like cotton. When the conditions are right, tiny nodules called primordial, which look like tiny balloons, will appear upon the strands. These absorb water and swell up by turbo pressure (water pressure). It would be as if you buried a balloon under the soil and then blew it up. It is marvelous to see the power of turbo pressure in Mushroom development. Though mushrooms seem so fragile they are able to penetrate the soil as they emerge for spore dispersal. You see them first above ground in the button stage. They then open up like an umbrella to expose the gills beneath to release their spores.
Recycling the Nutrients:
The fruiting bodies of most gilled mushrooms are short lived. Once they have done their job of releasing spores, they deteriorate and return to the soil. You can see this in the earlier picture in the post. Often the nutrients from their breakdown are reabsorbed by the mycelium underground to be used again in growth of the organism.
Who Created These Creatures?
One of the most basic questions asked by mankind is, “Where did all the creatures we observe around us come? ” Those who have read the Bible find the answer right away in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We also find this truth in the Book of Colossians: “For by Him (Jesus Christ) all things were created, in heaven and on earth” . As a believer myself, I believe that this is true and I find more and more evidence of this fact through my study of His creation.
The Big Question of Origins:
So “Why, you may ask, did He create poisonous organisms that could be harmful to man? You can find that answer in the first few chapters of the Bible and throughout the whole 66 Books therein. It was man’s sin that led to the curse of nature. Because man disobeyed God’s command this has happened. Fortunately, God has given mankind the ability to observe what He has created and draw conclusion that can help us learn to avoid the dangers around us. Every creature was created for a purpose and some of those most feared by man offer many blessings to us. Just consider the bees. They possess stingers which are very painful if you do not respect these insects. So how many ways do these same bees help us! They pollinate our crops and produce honey. They provide food for many other creatures as well as many other benefits. The mushrooms that are harmful to us when eaten also produce benefits. Many other creatures can eat them with no harmful effects. Mushrooms help breakdown dead and decaying animal and plant material and recycle it into the soil to be used again by other organisms. *There are many other ways they are helpful that you can learn through research and observation.
I hope you will take some time to carefully examine all the creatures around you. How many ways do they benefit us? “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Why not take some time to thank Him for His gifts to mankind. If you do not know Him as Savior and LORD, He offers to take away the barrier between God and man through believing on Jesus Christ and His work on the cross to pay the debt we owe for our sins. You can be a child of God too. It makes a world of difference in how we view creation and our ability to understand His purposes for our lives.
*Why not do some more research?:
If you find these mushrooms interesting you can discover a lot more about them by doing some research. I had help in the identification of these mushrooms when I posted pictures of them on the Mushroom Identification Page and had mycologists from around the world identify them for me. I also Googled the scientific name and found many articles about them. You can also find many books in the library about mushrooms and their identification.