Mushroom Hunting: Stumpies, Frosties, Grassies

By Tom Nauman

Last month's column discussed the abundance of edible fall mushrooms and mostly the honey mushroom, armillaria mellea. The honey mushroom has the common "toadstool" shape which is similar to an umbrella, meaning it has a stem and cap. Many mycologists shudder at the term "toadstool" and don't use it mainly because is general usage the term refers to a poisonous mushroom. But, there are many edible mushrooms that are toadstool shaped and many poisonous mushrooms are not shaped in such a manner.

The honey mushroom is also referred to as a "stumpy" because it grows on stumps. It can also be found on live trees. Here we have the problem of using common or regional names again. I've also heard the common or regional names "frosties" and "grassies". I'm not sure if the users are discussing the same mushroom or not. The list that follows are the Latin names of several "toadstool" shaped mushrooms that are found in autumn for the readers that want to find them in a field guide. Some of the common names are in parentheses. For a real treat use the Latin names for a search on the internet. You'll find sites in Japanese, German, Greek and many other languages. That is exactly why Latin names are used.

They are: armillaria mellea (honey or stumpy mushroom), armillaria tabescens (ringless honey mushroom), naematoloma capnoides (orange stump mushroom), naematoloma sublateritium (brick cap), naematoloma fasciculare (sulphur tuft), tricholoma ponderosa (matsutake or pine mushroom).

Please note: These are all similar mushrooms that grow in the same areas at the same time and SOME OF THEM CAN KILL YOU! Don't rely on this column to identify what you are going to consume.

Also, the experts that write the field guides use many more characteristics than what space allows here. The characteristics include: shape, size, gills, color, habitat, does the stem break cleanly or does it leave fibers and does it exude a juicy substance, is there a ring around the stem, size and spacing of the gills, are the gills attached to the stalk or just the cap, does the stem arise from a sack-like volva in the ground, does the mushroom grow singularly or in groups, etc. This list goes on to include size, shape, and color of the spores!

Enjoy and be careful.

Remember, whenever you want to try eating a mushroom you're not familiar with, check it in at least two field guides. If they say it's edible, try just a nibble, wait 24 hours, and if there are no ill effects then consume larger amounts. All past articles are available Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments. Especially if you have ideas or suggestions for future columns: Tom and Vicky Nauman, Morel Mania, RR1 - Box 42, Magnolia, IL 61336, Phone 309-364-3319, Fax 309-364-2960,