25 January 2013

Naked Fruiting Bodies

You, it being winter with few plants alive in Garden65, thought you were free from mind-numbing taxonomy lessons, but no ... ha ha ... you forgot the mushrooms!

Last weekend, whilst rummaging around in that oppressive growth of ivy I came across a secret community of mushrooms. They were growing on the dead stump of a ceanothus. This had been a bush that had grown beyond its intended boundaries so I invited the hunkiest tree-surgeon in Didsbury to come and shave a few branches off and tame its exuberance. Unfortunately he did such a good job it died completely. The ivy is pleased with this outcome because it has something else to cling too, and now it seems the fungi are having a go at it too.

These little mushrooms are, as far as I can tell, Common Rustgills, no doubt because they are all over the place, and orange. Their taxonomic name is Gymnopilus penetrans. It is of the Order, Agaricacles, and the Family, Strophariaceae.

Let’s have a rummage around those names – just for the fun of it:

According to Wikipedia the Order they belong to, the Agricacles, are ‘a type of fungal fruiting body characterised by a pileus (cap) which is clearly differentiated from the stipe (stalk) with lamellae (gills) on the underside of the pileus’.

You will find the pileus is the defining feature of our little mushroomy friends.

The next step in refinement is their Family, the Strophariaceae. These are characterised by their ‘cutis-type pileipellis’. Their what? The pileipellis is the ‘uppermost layer in the pileus that covers the fleshy tissue of the fruit body’. Oh, OK.

Right, so what does their name mean (I’m sure, like me, you are intrigued to know)?

Gymnopilus apparently means ‘naked pileus’. The Greek word for naked is ‘gymnos’, and is where the word gymnasium comes from - all those nude Greek wrestlers, and all that. Now you’re interested aren't you?

‘Penetrans’ I daren’t Google.

So, to recap, our mushrooms our named after their cutis-type, clearly differentiated, naked and probably penetrating caps. Got it.


In a not unrelated anecdote we came across a little mushroom on one of our walks in the Lakes at Christmas. We identified it, not unreasonably, as a Sphagnum Brownie (who you will be pleased to know is also of the Agaricacles/Strophariaceae tribe). Back at the cottage after lighting the fire and opening another box of chocolates I got the IPad out to see if this mushroom was edible. In my innocence I Googled: 'Mushroom Brownie Recipe'. I don't think I need to elucidate further the types of results that produced.